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National Apprenticeships Week: Apprenticeships providing skills for the future

This week (6-12 February 2023) is National Apprenticeships Week! This year’s theme is ‘Skills for Life’, which is reflecting on how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career and for organisations to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with skills for the future.

So, since the implementation of the apprenticeship levy in 2017 by the Government, where are we now with apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships is a work-based training programme which involve accelerated training where this element is usually fully or partially government funded. They are open to anyone over the age of 16 and are available at intermediate, advanced and higher degree level.

In 2017, the Government launched the Apprenticeship Levy; a new co-investment rate to support employers who do not pay the levy; and the National Apprenticeship Service. Initially, there was a slow uptake in the number of apprenticeships, but according to the Government’ statistics, between August-October 2022, there were 122,290 apprenticeship starts. Notably, the impact of Brexit and Covid-19 pandemic have been drivers in the increasing number of apprenticeships, where there has been a need to quickly fill skills shortages whilst retaining talent in organisations.

Attitudes have shifted since the apprenticeship scheme has developed, particularly with a focus to boost diversity, however there still remains the stigma attached to poor use of apprenticeship levy with a lack of investment in the quality of apprenticeships.

This year’s theme is ‘Skills for Life’, where National Apprenticeships Week which is the opportunity to showcase a brand of what apprenticeships entail and what companies will pledge to increase the uptake in apprenticeship schemes. This week, we have already witnessed various schemes being pledged, both in the educational sphere to a range of industries. These include the following:

  • It has been confirmed by the Department of Education that UCAS will be promoting apprenticeships alongside degrees, which is a significant announcement in attracting apprentices at the early stages of careers.
  • Aggregate Industries, a building materials company, has announced that it is seeking to recruit almost 80 apprentices this year.
  • High-speed rail project HS2 has announced that it is planning to create 300 new apprenticeships this year.
Melanie Pimenta

Senior Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4653

We anticipate seeing organisations adapting and tailoring their apprenticeship schemes. In a technologically evolving world with rapid changes in skills required for jobs.

What areas of reform do we expect to see to apprenticeships?

Firstly, it is hoped that the wage for apprentices will increase. Previously, the London Progression Collaboration, a non-profit organisation, had called on employers and the Government to scrap the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage and replace it with the National Minimum Wage. Such a change could result in increased productivity and business retention.

Next, apprenticeship schemes vary across sectors, but the key aspect is managing the expectations of both apprenticeship candidates and employers. It is important that apprentices feel supported throughout their apprenticeship scheme and that the scheme is tailored to developing their specific skills. We consider that organisations will invest in the quality of their apprenticeship schemes to provide a structured programme to meet both the apprentice and employer’s requirements.

We anticipate seeing organisations adapting and tailoring their apprenticeship schemes. In a technologically evolving world with rapid changes in skills required for jobs, it is expected that organisations will vary their apprenticeships schemes to meet individuals’ needs, particularly those with a willingness to learn, with the aim to retain talent.

What are the key considerations when recruiting apprentices?

Organisations employing apprentices must comply with all aspects of discrimination law. Government funding for apprenticeship schemes is generally tiered according to age, however it is important that organisations do not directly discriminate against older applicants unless the employer has an objective justification.

With consideration to the wider workforce, employers should ensure that apprentices’ terms of employment are consistent with those offered to employees of similar status and length of service. Although currently, it is not unlawful age discrimination to pay an apprentice less than the adult rate for the National Minimum Wage.

Employers should note the additional obligations to young workers for those apprentices under the age of 18, but over compulsory school age, particularly in relation to working time, health and safety and safeguarding.

If you require further advice on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our employment law team.

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Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Melanie Pimenta

Senior Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4653

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