Half of retail firms plan to take on apprentices in next five years, new research reveals

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Half of England’s retail and consumer products and services firms plan to take on apprentices in the next five years, and a quarter (27%) of them intend to do so in the next 12 months. That’s according to new research  released today to mark the start of National Apprenticeship Week.

The study of 600 businesses revealed that across all industries, 44% of employers plan to take on apprentices in the next five years. It also revealed that one fifth (20%) of SMEs plan to take on one or more apprentices in the next 12 months alone, with more than a third (37%) of larger businesses planning to do the same.

Around a third (32%) of all companies that plan to take on apprentices say this is because they are a core part of their growth strategy.

Ahead of a visit to BT, who recently announced that they would take on 730 more apprentices over the next year, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, said: “As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week it’s good to see that employers are increasingly recognising the value apprentices can bring to their businesses. Apprentices are now a key and valued part of the workforce for most businesses large or small – and the huge increase which this Government has overseen is one of my proudest achievements.

“Given the grants available to help small businesses take on apprentices, it’s especially good that so many SMEs are embracing apprenticeships in the coming years and that apprentice recruitment now forms a key part of a businesses’ plans for sustainable growth.”

The study also shows how Apprenticeships are growing in popularity. In fact, 43% of all employers, and 48% of retail and consumer products and services firms, agree they would be more likely to offer an Apprenticeship than they were two years ago. Of the 43%, two in five (38%) said this was because the talent pool had widened as Apprenticeships become more popular, 33% because it had become easier to employ apprentices and 32% because they have more job roles in their business that would suit an apprentice. Overall, 41% of employers agreed that apprentices stay in the business longer than other recruits.

Furthermore, it would appear Apprenticeships are now filtering into supply chain selection criteria with more than a third (36%) of retail and consumer products and services firms saying they have been questioned by clients or prospects about their apprentice recruitment policies.

This finding is mirrored in a supplementary study amongst some of the companies featured in the latest City & Guilds Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers List (3). Key findings from the bosses surveyed include:

  • 93% advocate apprentice recruitment through their supply chain
  • 78% say they would be more likely to choose a supplier or partner if they too offered Apprenticeships, with 18% of these saying apprentice recruitment is already part of their selection criteria

Now in its seventh year, National Apprenticeship Week is designed to celebrate Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. The overarching theme for 2014 has been Great Apprenticeships, to demonstrate that Apprenticeships are great for business, personal careers and create opportunities for both employers and apprentices. 

As part of the Week, the National Apprenticeship Service, in conjunction with Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), has launched a new initiative to help small business owners on their Apprenticeship journey. Apprenticemakers is an online peer to peer mentoring community providing easy access to other businesses who have already taken on apprentices.  

www.apprenticemakers.org.uk