An increasing number of UK businesses are offering Apprenticeships because they are proven to offer a host of benefits ranging from improved productivity and competitiveness, to better staff retention and motivation.

Provisional data shows a record growth in Apprenticeship numbers, with around 440,000 people starting an apprenticeship in 2010/11.

As Simon Waugh, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), explains: “For a strong and growing economy we must have a high level of skills to meet employer demand and Apprenticeships are vital way of achieving this.

"The NAS is not only committed to increasing the number and range of Apprenticeships on offer, but also to ensuring the quality of Apprenticeships, which is so key to this growth.”

A range of initiatives have recently been announced by the government to encourage more employers to take on apprentices, including the introduction of more Higher Level Apprenticeships (up to degree level), measures to cut bureaucracy and the launch of a new financial incentive for small firms who hire apprentices.

Higher Apprenticeships
Radical plans for the introduction of more Higher Apprenticeships (up to degree equivalent) are paving the way for more higher level technical skills that are crucial for job creation and growth in key sectors, including construction.

New government funding is set to support thousands of new Higher Apprenticeships enabling employers, colleges and universities to deliver the advanced skills most critical for growth.

Simon said: “The Government is boosting the supply of genuine, high quality, employer-owned Apprenticeship places, in particular at Advanced Level Apprenticeship and above.

“An advanced economy needs advanced skills, so we want to improve progression routes through Apprenticeships into higher level skills,” he added.

The new Higher Apprenticeship Fund is initially supporting the development of 19,000 new Higher Apprenticeships in sectors including, construction, advanced engineering, insurance and financial services. Around 250 employers are set to benefit from the new accredited technical training delivered in the workplace.

The funding is part of a £25m fund for Higher Apprenticeships announced in July. A second round of bids to the fund will be invited soon.

Help for small businesses
Measures have also been recently announced designed to make it easier for small businesses to take on apprentices. These include the introduction of a financial incentive to help the smallest firms recruit their first apprentices and plans to reduce the red tape that can deter small businesses from taking on apprentices.

The Government will offer businesses with up to 50 employees an incentive payment of up to £1,500 to take on their first young apprentice aged 16 to 24. This will support up to 20,000 new Apprenticeships in 2012/13 and it’s envisaged that the scheme will be up and running by April 2012.

This will be accompanied by plans to simplify processes, such as health and safety rules, to make it quicker and easier for employers to take on an apprentice. As well as action to continue to raise the standards of all Apprenticeships and to make the training even more flexible and responsive to business needs.

“All these new developments will help to ensure that Apprenticeships continue to go from strength to strength, effectively meeting the challenging and ever-changing skills needs of employers in the construction sector and providing life changing employment and progression opportunities for individuals,” said Simon.

Getting Involved
The first step for any employer who is new to recruiting apprentices should be to contact the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) which delivers a dedicated service to employers, offering free, expert advice and support to those looking to recruit apprentices for the first time, or expand their Apprenticeship programme.

* Employers who want to find out more about employing apprentices should call the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600 or visit