From education to employment

How can we convince SMEs that hiring an apprentice is good for their workforce?

Kevin Faulkner, Director of Banham Academy

The value of apprentices in the workplace is still shockingly overlooked, which is a serious error from employers. The benefits of investing in apprentices and the immense value they can offer the growth of any business, is something that I feel passionately about and would want to encourage businesses across all sectors to get on board with more.

I am a Director of the Banham Academy, the educational leg of the Banham Group, who are the largest provider of security systems in London and the South East of England.

Our Academy is seen as one of the ‘new kids on the block’ as we have only been directly funded by the ESFA since the apprenticeship levy scheme was introduced in 2017.

We have a purpose-built academy in Earlsfield, South West London, and deliver one of the new apprenticeship standards, the Level 3 in Fire, Emergency and Security Systems.

This is a challenging, advanced apprenticeship over a period of 3 years. aimed at equipping the apprentice with all the skills required to work as a technician, installing and maintaining intruder alarms, access control and CCTV systems.

We are in a sector that has an ageing workforce with a skills shortage, so why is the apprentice take up by employers so slow?

I can understand small employers and SMEs may be hesitant to pay a co-investment fee of 10% of the apprenticeship funding value if they employ an apprentice of 19 years of age or older, but levy payers are not affected by this.

To me, that doesn’t seem fair and a change in these rules would be highly beneficial. Sadly, this is not likely at the moment so for now, let’s focus on the positives and the benefits and incentives associated with employing an apprentice:

One interesting piece of research by Sheffield University stated that a Level 3 Advanced apprentice will generate an additional lifetime benefit to themselves and their employer of £105,000 compared to someone who does not gain an apprenticeship.

This is of course incredibly positive, and it is also widely recognised that any initial investment in an apprentice would be recouped two years after completion in the more technical sectors.

I personally think that any investment by an employer is repaid before the end of the apprenticeship, but it’s how to convince employers of this.

To start with, over the three years, what we must do is list the forecasted capabilities of the apprentice at the end of year 1, 2 and of course 3, which is covered in the apprenticeship standard.

By doing this there has to be a measurement of ability at each year end, and therefore creating an internal annual assessment, that is something similar to the end point assessment, is vital.

Completing this and giving the employer the confidence that their apprentice can now do certain required tasks in the workplace will start to help pay back the initial investment associated with hiring an apprentice.

What are the other options to hiring an apprentice? You can advertise via conventional recruitment methods for a technician, and if experienced or qualified, this will come at a price.

With an apprentice, you have someone easily mouldable and extremely eager not only to learn new skills but how your Company operates.

There will be no bad habits to iron out and you can turn your apprentices into excellent engineers with your dedicated training rather than risk hiring an average engineer, not trained as you would want.

I am confident that if put to the test, apprentices who have completed Level 3 would more than exceed the skills of the average engineer.

Kevin Faulkner, Director of Banham Academy

Copyright © 2018 FE News

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