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Sensible Staffing Solutions


Wheather the economy is faltering or thriving, finding good people is critical to the success of any business. It has even been said that skills shortages and recruitment problems are a bigger threat to the performance of UK firms than rising oil prices and declining consumer spending. But finding people with the right skills can present a major challenge.


In an attempt to support both commerce and young people the government launched the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) in 2009 to encourage apprenticeships.

‘Apprenticeships are a growth area now’ says Martha Browes, NAS spokesman. Nearly 90,000 employers in 131,000 workplaces offer them, she says, and research shows they are an optional way of helping businesses secure employees with the skills they need.

‘We are investing in apprenticeships because we know they work, they are good for people who want to get ahead, good for business and good for the country’, Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated during a July visit to Jaguar Land Rover in the Midlands.


How Apprenticeship work

The structure of an apprenticeship is straightforward. The apprentice is a company employee who works for that company but simultaneously receives relevant training that leads to a recognised qualification by the relevant institute or governing body of the trade in which the apprentice works.

The training for the apprentices can take place at their place of work or in conjunction with a college.


What kind of Apprenticeships are available?

As businesses continue to diversify, so do apprenticeships. Plumbing, catering and accountancy are still traditional favourites, but disciplines suck as estate agency, health care, tourism and retail procurement are among the new generation of opportunities on offer.


Counting the cost

If an employer plans to take on an apprentice, there are two main costs to consider. The first is the salary which is paid directly by the employer to the apprentice.

An apprentice can be of any age and wage structures vary accordingly. But for each age group, the national minimum wage for the apprentices is lower than it is for the workers. From October 1, 2011, it starts at £2.65.

Having a salary is a valuable incentive to the apprentice as training is achieved purely through college would have no income attached. The other cost to consider is training. Again subsidies vary, but for apprentices aged 16-18 the NAS will cover 100 per cent of the training costs. The subsidies are lower for older apprentices.

Ian Sinclair, director of Walesby Forest Activity Centre, says that apprentices help him to manage the seasonality of his business. Summer is peak season in Walesby and extra staff are needed during these months. Sinclair tries to take on young unemployed people rather than students on a summer break. ‘This way’ he says, ‘I am providing jobs for people who may not otherwise have employment’. After being employed within the apprenticeship scheme, they leave with a nationally recognised qualification to show for their time spent in Walesby.

Another critical advantage for Walesby is the financial benefit. The lower national minimum wage allows the company to employ an apprentice for a longer time period than if they hired another worker.

Sinclair says the only frustration comes from a recent change in government policy. The rules now state that apprenticeships are 100 per cent funded only if the individual is between 16-18 years old. Many activities and functions in Walesby require a person to be 18 or older for legal or safety reasons. If Walesby wants to receive the maximum funding possible, they can offer apprenticeships only to people between their 18th and 19th birthdays. This leaves Sinclair turning away otherwise promising candidates. This is especially disappointing as, like many employers, he finds that apprentices bring enthusiasm and energy into the workplace.

An employer who uses apprentices in the Jewellery industry says ‘The training we give apprentices turns them into successful craftsmen. They have a trade for life. This scheme is good for them, for us and good for the trade as a whole.'


Benefits to the Employer of Training


  • The care industry has a high staff turnover. It is expensive in terms of time and cost to recruit and train new staff.
  • Helps recruitment and retention.
  • Builds well founded individuals.
  • Productivity increases.