From education to employment

Kicking off the ‘Year of Retention’ #BuildTheFuture this National Apprenticeship Week

Jill Whittaker, Managing Director, HIT Training

The past two years have seen radical changes brought about by Covid-19: historic supply chain disruption, pandemic-fuelled shortages of all kinds, the collapse of dozens of energy suppliers, social justice movements, remote working and learning – the list goes on.

But among these changes is arguably one of the most significant; “The Great Resignation”, a historic trend that shaped the world of work in 2021.

Around the world, workers quit their jobs in record numbers. According to the Office for National Statistics, 791,000 Brits moved jobs between April and June 2021 alone – that equates to 2.6% of the UK workforce[1].

What’s more, a further study conducted by CV Library found that 76.4% of UK professionals plan to look for a new role this year[2].  

What does this show us?

The coronavirus pandemic caused employees to question their career choices and long-term goals. Periods of severe stress and even burnout have resulted in a cultural shift, as workers reflect on what work really means to them, and how it fits into their life. Employees are questioning where they fit in their organisation, whether their skills are being put to good use, their own value, and, most importantly, their future.

In order to retain those employees and be a part of that future, employers must focus on retaining the talented individuals they have, while also offering clear career pathways that are attractive to people coming into their industry.

Apprenticeships are one of the best ways to offer that career longevity, and during National Apprenticeship Week, it is important to communicate this messaging, while addressing some of the most common misconceptions that still exist.

For example, apprenticeships are still widely perceived as a training system designed for school or college leavers – people just starting out in their career. While this is a fantastic way for young people to get their foot in the door, apprenticeships are available to all. From Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to Levels 6 and 7 (bachelor or master’s degree equivalent), apprenticeships are available to both existing employees or entrants into industries for all ages, from 16 to 70, across all sectors and skills.

Real change is on the horizon for both apprentices and employers.

Employers can no longer rely on a revolving door of candidates, and if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that staff need to feel that sense of purpose in their work to maximise retention. Employees want to try new things; they want to upskill and reskill, and expected changes to apprenticeships in 2022 have the potential to offer employees that opportunity without the need to join the mass exodus.

For years, apprenticeships have been invaluable in helping to unlock skills quickly and fast-track highly motivated staff into positions where they can provide real value. New flexible training models will formalise this process.

The Government is currently exploring a number of flexible working patterns to best support apprentices and apprenticeship employers going forward, including a new apprenticeship delivery model that would allow employers to front-load training for their apprentices – aka, delivering a bulk of training before an apprentice begins their formal responsibilities.

Not only would this embed key skills and technical knowledge, allowing apprentices to gain the core knowledge they need to hit the ground running, but front-loading training would also go a long way in helping to tackle skills shortages across the board. We’ve already seen industry bodies and the government lay out how this would work for construction[3], and look forward to the impact it will have on a variety of sectors.

For example, in the hospitality industry, crippling staff shortages have left venues in desperate need of employees who can operate efficiently from the very beginning. Current methods of training, while valuable, are not delivering results fast enough to meet the needs of certain roles, such as chefs. Similarly, the care sector is also struggling, and will benefit massively from the ability to onboard staff who already have the technical knowledge they need to make a difference from their first shift.

Embedding key behaviours and practical skills will still be needed throughout the full apprenticeship programme, however front-loaded training has the potential to transform the workforce for the better.

With greater acknowledgement of the benefits of apprenticeship and further communication about the huge variety of opportunities available, the ‘Great Resignation’ can be replaced with an altogether more positive opportunity; ‘The Year of Retention’.

There has never been a better time to invest in apprenticeships, and during National Apprenticeship Week and beyond, it is vitally important to tackle misconceptions, communicate what a truly exciting future lies ahead.

Jill Whittaker is Managing Director of award-winning apprenticeship and training provider, HIT Training, and its divisions, Connect2Care and The Executive Development Network

  1. Office for National Statistics
  2. CV Library
  3. Home Builders Federation

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