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Ask the Experts at Damar Training

Apprenticeships and the B word (you know the one I mean!)

24th September 2019, 9:26 am

Whether or not the UK leaves the EU on 31st October, skills shortages in Greater Manchester are only likely to increase in the short term. The falling pound and uncertainly over right to remain has made the UK less attractive to EU migrants and unemployment is at multi-decade lows. Despite this, in Greater Manchester we have too many residents who are economically inactive, have low qualifications or need re-skilling because the jobs they were trained for no longer exist. Used cleverly, apprenticeships can be part of the solution, particularly for SMEs. Jonathan Bourne, managing director of Damar Training, explains.

2020 will mark Damar’s 40th year in business and 14 years since I joined the business. Many of the challenges facing our partner-employers are not new, but it seems to be getting harder to find, develop and retain talent. This is particularly true for SMEs, who often can’t compete on salary, brand or offer shiny graduate development programmes. Despite the current economic uncertainty, the labour market is tight and Brexit is only making it worse.

Where talent is in short supply and hard to keep hold of, is there a way for businesses to (a) widen the pool in which they are fishing for new people and (b) make their offer as attractive as possible without simply increasing wages?

In Manchester we have an estimated 42,000 residents with no qualifications and a further 36,000 with very low qualifications. (ONS, Annual Population survey, January to December 2017). There are many more, often highly qualified people, working in temporary jobs that don’t meet their aspirations or who are economically inactive but not registered as unemployed. Used smartly, an apprenticeship can be the key that unlocks this potential and makes a real difference to business. Apprenticeships today are better than they have ever been at doing this:

  • There is no age barrier – a 40 year-old returning to the workforce is just as eligible as an 18 year-old college leaver.
  • The training cost for employers is negligible – in most cases less than £50 per month.
  • Eligibility is about need rather than the level of prior qualifications, so graduates can benefit.
  • Part-time employees can be apprentices.

The new apprenticeship standards are designed by employers and are far more rigorous, with more training content (at least a day a week), than their predecessors. This makes them perfect for professional and vocational pathways. At Damar we have apprentices of all ages who are now qualifying as accounting technicians, paralegals, certified managers, Chartered Legal Executives (to name just a few) as well as in areas such as administration and customer service.

Apprenticeships always take over a year and, in many cases, the apprenticeship journey may take three years or more – a great way both to lock in and reward future talent. Study time during working hours needs to be planned but an effective and motivated colleague committed to your business for the long-term more than compensates for this.

If that’s not got you thinking about what apprenticeships might do for your business, three questions to finish on…

  1. Does your business have anyone who shows potential and that you want to keep but needs more support than you can give?
  2. Would your business be more profitable if somebody else could pick up some of the admin work done by your delivery/fee-earning staff?
  3. How would your customers respond to you investing more in your team and offering opportunities to people from your local community?

Oh, and did I mention that Damar, in common with many other apprenticeship providers, offers a free recruitment service?

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