From education to employment

Broadening Apprenticeship Provision Beyond Traditional Occupations

Doug Heckman, Head of Further Education for Labour Market Insight specialists, Emsi.

When the Government set a target of creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, one thing was immediately clear: they were never going to hit that target without apprenticeships being created outside the “traditional apprenticeship” occupations. This is one of the basic points of the levy, it being designed as a way to encourage employers in all sorts of industries to take on apprentices – not just those that have traditionally done so.

But just as the Government could not hope to reach its ambitious target by relying on traditional apprenticeship occupations alone, the same is true of education providers. Unless they are prepared to broaden the scope of their apprenticeship provision beyond those sectors and occupations they have always worked with, they too are likely to fall well short. For any provider that wants to avoid missing the mark, this begs the following question: which new sectors, occupations and ultimately employers should we be targeting?

Many providers seeking to tackle this issue will adopt the largely thankless task of contacting employers in their area in the hope that some might show an interest in taking on apprentices. But this is an approach born out of necessity, rather than choice, simply because until now there hasn’t really been a more methodical approach available. However, through our research we have identified what we believe is a far more systematic approach, and we present some of our results below.

Identifying “Apprenticeship-Relevant” Occupations

Through our research we have identified a list of occupations which might be termed “Apprentice-relevant”. That is, they are occupations which meet the following criteria:

  • They require a certain degree of skill (i.e. above basic skill), but not a degree
  • They require a certain amount of experience before an employee can attain competence
  • They require a high level of physical, communication and/or social interaction skills

The list of occupations that we end up with is an inclusive definition of apprentice occupations. That is, it includes all occupations where apprenticeships could be used, rather than simply occupations where apprenticeships are currently used. In other words, this approach essentially supersedes the traditional apprenticeship model – which could never hit the Government’s or the individual provider’s targets – and instead proposes a new model whereby providers can look at a whole new range of occupations which are a good fit for apprenticeships.

Identifying Which Industries Employ Apprenticeship-Relevant Occupations

With our list of apprenticeship-relevant occupations, we have then used Labour Market Insight to establish which industries these occupations are in, with the purpose of projecting the sectors that have the most potential for apprenticeships. The graph below shows high level industries (1-Digit SIC code), and the numbers of apprenticeship-relevant roles there are within each of them across the country:

Actual Numbers of Apprenticeship-Relevant Occupations in Britain's Major Industries in 2016


The same exercise can be repeated, but this time to show apprenticeship-relevant roles as a proportion of the total workforce, rather than actual job numbers:

Percentage of Apprenticeship-Relevant Occupations in Britain's Major Industries in 2016


Identifying Growth Areas

However, it’s all very well and good identifying occupations which might have apprenticeship-potential, and it’s all very well then going on to identify how much apprenticeship-potential there might be in the industries where these occupations are found, but what any provider will want to know, in addition to this, is which of the apprenticeship-relevant occupations are set to grow. By mapping our list of apprenticeship-relevant occupations to our Labour Market Insight, we can easily establish this. The chart below gives a snapshot of this, looking at the Top 10 apprenticeship-relevant occupations, as measured by expected openings over the next three years:


The Top 10 Apprenticeship-Relevant Occupations in Terms of Expected Openings Over the Next Three Years


All of the above information uses Britain as the sample area. But what is really exciting about this process, from the point of view of a local education provider, is that it can be repeated at far more granular levels of data, right down to LEP level, or County/Unitary Authority level, or even Local Authority level. In other words, the list of apprenticeship-relevant occupations and sectors can be mapped out against demand at the most local levels, therefore giving a window on potential new apprenticeships in any area of the country.

In Summary

As stated at the beginning, for education providers to increase their apprenticeship provision to meet targets, a new approach is needed. What we have described above is such an approach. We began by stating that we have identified not just those occupations that currently employ apprentices, but all occupations which could potentially be filled by apprentices. We then showed how these occupations can be mapped out to establish the sectors where they are found, before showing how we can identify which apprenticeship-relevant occupations are set to grow the most over the next few years. Finally, we commented that the same process that we have demonstrated at the national level can be done at a local level. For those providers who are looking for a more methodical way of highlighting new opportunities for growing apprenticeship provision, our research shows that this is entirely possible.

Doug Heckman, Head of Further Education for Labour Market Insight specialists, Emsi.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the research presented in this piece, you can contact him here.

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