Apprenticeships have the unique ability to address critical skills gaps and build transformational capabilities for organisations, whilst enabling individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.
With the rise in new ways and places of work, changing employee expectations, skilled labour shortages, a multigenerational workforce and persistent economic and geopolitical uncertainties, the pressure is mounting on employers to find smarter ways of attracting, training, retaining and optimally deploying their employees.
With more employees re-evaluating what they want from their job, and life in general, employers need to take a multi-faceted approach to attract and retain talent. Tailored apprenticeships efficiently unlock the rapid capability building that today’s workforce requires. They provide a clear pathway that enables people to learn, earn and gain practical experiences. Furthermore, they contribute towards providing a sense of meaning and purpose that an increasing number of employees seek, while simultaneously building a cohesive culture of continuous learning and development.
Approaching the challenges of today for a better tomorrow
Over the last few years, many young people have had to face disruptions in their education, but those with support at home and access to devices have had a greater chance of minimising the gap. That’s not true for those who were already behind their peers. A report by the Royal Society found that; ‘because of school closures and disruption to education, from the mid-2030s, workers in their 20s will have lower skills than they would otherwise have. For the next 50 years, this has the potential to affect a quarter of the entire workforce and disadvantaged students are particularly at risk of falling into poverty’.
Our future generations deserve a different approach, so we can ensure that the disadvantages they face now do not continue through their life and impact their future careers and earnings. Apprenticeship providers like Capita must do everything we can to forge more meaningful relationships with colleges and businesses to create more inclusive opportunities, while also meeting the needs of employers.
Addressing the skills gap through tailored apprenticeships
We must also challenge ourselves to design innovative and purposeful programmes that address the skills gaps that businesses and learners are facing now, and those they’re likely to face in future.
Businesses never stand still, and apprenticeships shouldn’t either. We know that businesses increasingly need employees with digital and technological skills such as data literacy or advanced coding. Then there are personal and socio-economic skills to consider such as communication, leadership and managing others. How many students from disadvantaged backgrounds are given the opportunity to polish their debating and presentation skills? Yet, these skills can be highly sought after in the workplace.
We are already facing a UK STEM skills shortage (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and there also basic literacy, communication and numeracy skills to focus on too. According to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, five million adults lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills in 2016. Post-pandemic, that figure is likely to be much higher. In the Autumn 2021 budget speech, the government announced a new national programme called ‘Multiply’ to address poor numeracy skills among UK adults. Their aim is to deliver a “high wage, high skill, high productivity economy of the future”. Numeracy skills already have to be built into apprenticeship programmes, but we need to carefully consider the needs of young people who are emerging from a period of disrupted education. Providers will be key in closing this gap, but more support is needed, and we are keen to hear more about the government’s plans in this key area.
Reshaping organisational capabilities, learning and culture
At Capita, we design our apprenticeship programmes in partnership with businesses and use real- time, intuitive data insights to update and improve them so we can respond to changes in the wider business landscape. This means we can be sure that our programmes are in line with how businesses are continually transforming themselves. We help people to access level 2 and 3 apprenticeship programmes to build their basic skills and then offer them the opportunity to grow into higher level apprenticeships so they can go on to forge successful and fulfilling careers.
Government data shows that out of 130,200 apprenticeship starts in the first quarter of the 2021/22 academic year, private training providers were responsible for 57% while general further education colleges accounted for 26%. So, we know that private apprenticeship providers have an important role to play. We’re fortunate at Capita to be able to combine our 30 years of industry experience with our skills in education and learning technology. This means we can develop programmes that are more engaging for the learner and fit the current and future skills requirements of employers.
For me, it’s important that we continue to work closely with employers and colleges to ensure we do justice to all learners (especially those who feel they don’t have the same level of opportunities as their peers) and provide a robust pipeline of skilled workers. We have a great opportunity now to reinvent the workplace and discover and develop new and existing talent, and Capita intends to be at the forefront of closing the skills gap.