skills that employers need

Keith Smith, Director, Apprenticeships Group, ESFA tells us why apprenticeships are at the heart of the UK government’s ambition to equip people of all ages with the skills that employers need

Apprenticeships are at the heart of the UK government’s drive to equip people of all ages with the skills that employers need. Apprenticeships play a key part in creating a stronger and fairer economy.

Apprenticeships not only can help people of all ages and backgrounds fulfil their potential, in some cases up to degree level, but they help business address their skills shortages – from upskilling existing workers to attracting new diverse talent.

Thousands of employers already benefit from flexible and high-quality apprenticeship training to help their business grow. 86% of employers say that apprenticeships have helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation, with 78% reporting improved productivity.

For apprenticeships to offer such great opportunities for people of all ages, they must be of the highest quality. High-quality apprenticeships give apprentices confidence that the skills they are learning will help them to succeed, whilst employers will see the bottom line return of a workforce with the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need.

Work continues to ensure that we create systems and experiences that apprenticeship employers and training providers require and that we do everything we can to create a high-quality experience, delivering the quality apprenticeships employers want. We continue to help the market work, through supporting the suppliers and providers of apprenticeships even more – but we monitor this; and will intervene heavily when quality fails.

Employer-led apprenticeship reforms are making apprenticeships even more valuable to employers by putting employers in control of the development of apprenticeships. Employers can choose the skills, training organisation, and how those apprenticeships are delivered – to ensure they meet their exact business needs.

The apprenticeship system is developing and further changes to the apprenticeship funding policy, from August 2018, will explain how the government will fund apprenticeship training in England and will apply to all employers, both those paying the apprenticeship levy and those who do not. This includes changes to funding bands, simplifying rules to make planning and predictability easier, transitional support for providers training 16 to 18-year olds on the framework, additional payments for individuals and the transferring of apprenticeship service funds to another employer.

Many businesses already see apprenticeships as vital to their strategic plans to recruit for the skills that employers need, but there is of course lots more work to do to ensure that apprenticeships work for all employers. We are in constant conversation with employers across all sectors to ensure that their needs are being met, while helping them attract the right talent and boost the quality of candidates applying for their apprenticeships. Higher and Degree Apprenticeships, in particular, mean businesses can train more employees in high-level skills that are critical for business growth, whilst offering ambitious school leavers or experienced professionals looking to upskill, the opportunity to learn at university, to degree level.

Working with apprenticeship ambassadors – including the Young Apprenticeship Ambassador Network – and by working with schools – we are promoting apprenticeships through these connected and informed networks, spreading the word on how apprenticeships are making a difference to lives, business and the wider economy.

Since May 2015 there have been more than 1.2 million individuals starting an apprenticeship, which will provide each of them with the opportunity to gain the skills that employers need. This is a fantastic achievement but it’s only the start as we want to make sure all employers have the skilled workforce they need. We are ensuring apprenticeships are as accessible as possible, encouraging take up from under-represented groups so that even more people can benefit from the increased wage and employment prospects that apprenticeships offer.


Keith Smith


Apprenticeships Group, ESFA


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