Damian Burdin, Chief Executive, Progress to Excellence Ltd

Chief Executive of Progress to Excellence Ltd, Damian Burdin, urges employers to embrace apprenticeships - along with the Apprenticeship Levy - as a means of breaking down barriers to create an agile workforce:

A BELIEF in the apprenticeship system to deliver the expertise to eliminate skills shortages is now crucial to increase the country’s productivity levels.

By taking on apprentices, businesses can create their own extensive and diverse talent pools to bridge essential skills gaps and thereby, boosting productivity. 

The UK economy may be getting stronger but in many areas our productivity is less than some other European countries and, as we leave the European Union, it’s vital our industries raise their game.

Key to this is providing the skills employers need to compete. However, sadly, it is recognised that some of our skills are considered weaker than those of our European counterparts – the fact that as a nation, we spend less on training, could certainly be one of the reasons.

According to the Office for National Statistics, UK productivity grew in the second quarter of this year but is still behind rates achieved before the global financial crisis of 2008. Output per hour was up 1.4 per cent compared with the same period last year but growth figures still remain below the pre-downturn average of 2 per cent.

Analysts have shown that the UK’s output per hour is around a quarter behind competitors like France and Germany, meaning it takes British workers five days to produce what others achieve in four.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also revealed that in 2016 England had one of the largest proportions of low-skilled young workers and that young people were less skilled than their older counterparts.

The Apprenticeship Levy is a step forward for employers to invest in their staff and up-skill them. The overhaul of the apprenticeship system and its new standards, which have been designed in partnership with employers, means that apprenticeships are now more robust and meaningful for businesses and in turn, their staff.

Using levy funds to up-skill and retrain an existing workforce is a major reason for businesses to break down any barriers they may have to the new system and, embrace it as a great way to boost their own productivity which will ultimately, contribute to the country’s economic growth.

The Apprenticeship Levy is also a means of promoting social mobility, giving employers the opportunity to recruit talent from a wider range of diverse backgrounds.

Change was what happened for employers when the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced last year and, with more than 18 months of operation, it’s a change more businesses now need take on board to reap the benefits of having a highly skilled workforce fit to compete across all industrial and commercial sectors.

Damian Burdin, Chief Executive, Progress to Excellence Ltd

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