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    With the introduction of the Apprenticeship levy next month, there has never been a more exciting time within further education. Apprenticeships are set to get a boost in funding, and there will be an emphasis on quality. Businesses that have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million are going to be required to pay the levy and will want to ensure they’re getting the most value from it. Consequently, they will want to hire the best apprentices and use the leading training providers as a result.

    The levy has arrived just in time, as the UK faces a skills shortage, and there are fears that Brexit will exacerbate the issue. There are already reports of a risk of a brain drain within Universities and the STEM industries - one quarter of scientific researchers are foreign-born. However, by training home-grown apprentices, with high quality education, these gaps can and will be filled.

    This is what makes the work of companies such as RateMyApprenticeship so important. Educating young people about their career choices and offering peer review data so that young people can make the right choice that suits them. Businesses are starting to realise that they need to focus on attracting apprentices, not just university students, if they want to fill their talent pipeline sufficiently. To do this, they will need to invest in offering high quality apprenticeships, ensuring their business is prepared for what the future may bring.

    From the data that formed RateMyApprenticeship’s Top School Leaver Employers Table, we can already see this starting to take effect. Particularly around the salaries offered by some of the largest companies in the UK, which are not to be downplayed. We found that the average salary for a level 2 apprentice is £12,358, for level three apprentices is £15,785, and for Level 4 apprentices is £18,441.

    We also found that for apprentices who stay on past level 2 and embark on a level 3 apprenticeship, they can expect a significant increase in their annual salary. This clearly indicates that businesses are noticing the value of providing further education; providing an incentive for apprentices to continually enhance their skills. For example a level 2 law apprentice will, on average, start on a salary of £9,955. And by the time they reach level 3 will be on £18,950. Similarly, a level 2 accountancy apprentice will start on £11,599, which will increase to £15,970 at level 3. Supporting this further, the data showed that banking & finance appears to be investing the most in apprenticeships, as it was the highest rated industry this year, followed by business.

    Our data also revealed that the engineering industry provides the highest number of opportunities followed by IT; an insight which could have positive effects on the UK skill gap. However, there is still more to be done within Health, Science & Pharmaceuticals which came second to last.

    Interestingly, there is a positive outlook for young people all across the country, with opportunities in every corner of the UK. We found no evidence of a North-South divide. So young people who don’t want to travel too far from home are sure to find an apprenticeship for them wherever they are. For example, there were 551 opportunities in the North West, 433 in the South East, and 368 in the West Midlands. And this is just from our data so the outlook is positive.

    The importance of apprenticeships is increasingly growing. To support the UK’s economic output, a steady stream of talent will be needed to grow the workforce, and apprenticeships are the most sustainable and efficient way to achieve this. As Philip Hammond said in his spring budget “Investing in skills and education is the key to inclusive growth – to an economy that works for everyone.”

    Oliver Sidwell, Co-founder of RateMyApprenticeship

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