2 people talking

Despite the economic uncertainty presented by Brexit, the Government is pushing ahead with its plans to introduce a levy on employers to help fund apprenticeships. In April 2017, employers in every sector will start paying the apprenticeship levy if they have a payroll of more than £3m. With the introduction of the levy, the Government hopes to to create three million apprentices across the UK by 2020.

On the surface, this is great news for young people who are looking for more opportunities to develop their skills outside of college or university. Apprentices can gain direct experience in a real work environment, which makes them more employable. Only 5% of apprentices are left jobless within a year of completing training, compared with 16% of university graduates. However, there are concerns that without the right exposure to the world of work or adequate career guidance, young people will not be able to make informed decisions on their career or what the best apprenticeship route might be for them.

Just under a third (31%) of apprenticeships finishing in England in 2013/14 weren’t successfully completed – a proportion that has increased over the last few years, from 26% in 2011/12.

To reverse this trend and ensure more apprentices sustain their placements, employers need to offer young people opportunities to try before they buy. This can be done simply by organising taster sessions and work experience placements to give young people a chance to sample the industry and the company – something that many young people are eager to have. A survey conducted by OMD UK on behalf of London Youth found that 85% of young people were desperate for employers to offer more work experience opportunities.

I recently worked with British Gas on developing a two-week work experience placement for a cohort of young people from Talent Match London, an employability programme supporting young people furthest from the labour market and with multiple barriers to employment. To increase take up, I convinced British Gas to pay for hotel accommodation for the young people taking part, ensuring they were staying just a short walk from the employer’s training site and had the chance to experience the placement together as a cohort, using the evenings to reflect upon the day with each other. The investment paid off. After the work placement ended, all five candidates immediately applied for apprenticeship positions within the company – something they probably wouldn’t have considered before.

The scheme gave British Gas the chance to increase its talent pool with enthusiastic apprenticeship candidates who now had a greater understanding of the business and, as a result, are far more likely to complete their apprenticeships and give British Gas a return on its investment. This is a formula that I hope will be replicated by every employer, so that come April more young people are able to sustain their apprenticeships and make the most of the apprenticeship levy.

This article fist appeared on the City & Guilds Group website