George Dee, Recruitment Manager at Lifetime Training

Apprentices Stay: How Apprenticeships Help Retention Rates

George Dee, Recruitment Manager at Lifetime Training discusses how apprenticeships can be used as a tool to improve retention rates, before giving tips that any Learning and Development Manager can introduce to combat high turnover rates:

Every year, Lifetime Training places around 5,000 apprentices in roles across the UK within our six sectors.

This is part of our free apprenticeship recruitment service, in which we work with clients to screen both external applicants and internal nominations.

Increasing retention rates is a common goal for our clients, especially in our largest sectors of hospitality, retail and care.

These sectors typically see a staff turnover rate significantly higher than average, and many employers are utilising apprenticeship schemes as a tool to fight these rates.

According to a report by the Skills Funding Agency, 80% of companies who invest in apprentices report an increase in staff retention (Benefits of Apprenticeships to Businesses).

In this article, we’ll drill down on specific industry success, explore why apprentices stay, and highlight methods for improving retention rates.

Clear results in a problem sector

To illustrate how apprenticeships can affect retention rates, we’ll focus on a sector that’s well known for its high staff turnover rates: hospitality. A recent report by Deputy found that hospitality employee turnover rate was 30%, double the UK’s average (Retaining British Hospitality Workers).

Within this industry, Pubcos are notorious for having poor staff retention rates. Lifetime Training work with four of the largest UK Pubcos to deliver apprenticeship training.

These clients are using apprenticeship schemes to bring new talent on board, and to retain existing talent through clearly defined progression pathways.

The data shows these apprenticeship programmes are having a clear effect:

  • The four Pubcos have an average team turnover of 84%, but their apprentice turnover is only 39% on average.
  • One of the top Pubcos has an overall employee turnover of 78%, but only a 15% turnover of apprentices.

Why do apprentices stay?

The lessons learned in the hospitality industry are relevant across every sector, especially others which suffer from high turnover rates such as Care and Retail.

The success comes from identifying the main reasons for employees leaving and utilising an apprenticeship scheme to solve it.

Here we explore four reasons why apprentices are more likely to stay than other team members:

  1. Candidates are driven - A vast majority of applicants are specifically seeking out an apprenticeship, particularly at entry level. Around 75% of candidates we process are applying because the position is an apprenticeship, with training and an accredited standard an attractive part of the application process. 
    This naturally leads to a pool of candidates that are very driven towards achieving their apprenticeship. A learner actively seeking out an apprenticeship is likely to be a focused individual, with a clear incentive to stay within the business.
  2. A sense of loyalty - We’re the UK’s largest apprentice recruiter for hospitality, and around 50% of our hospitality sector recruits are in the 16 to 18 age bracket. If you’re bringing in new talent for an entry-level apprenticeship, in many cases it will be the candidate’s first full-time job. Apprenticeships are an opportunity for development, and with the right onboarding process and support these young learners will develop a real sense of brand loyalty.
  3. Structured progression - With many apprenticeships, candidates are applying not just because of the direct training available but for the opportunity of further development.
    Apprenticeships are mapped to specific roles and show learners a clearly mapped career progression.
    With the right onboarding process, apprentices will quite clearly see a pathways from Level 2 entry level upwards. Employees understanding their next career step can be within the company is a clear way of helping keep talent.
  4. Nurturing confidence - We find that apprenticeships create a real sense of confidence in the learner, an important aspect for developing future talent. A key example is with advanced apprenticeships such as Management programmes. We see assistant managers take the plunge because they can understand the structured progression the apprenticeship will offer.

The clear structure helps alleviate anxieties from internal candidates looking to move to the next level of their career.

Four tips for improving employee retention

Apprenticeships are just one tool companies can use to drive retention rates and should be supported by focusing on improving employee experience.

Listen to employees, collect insights, action improvements, and most of all develop a sense of community within the business.

Here’s four areas to focus on when supporting a training scheme to improve retention rates:

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  1. The onboarding process - Having a clear onboarding process is hugely important in helping retention rates. The onboarding process should instil the company’s culture, explain roles and responsibilities, and clearly demonstrate avenues for career development.
    The best examples are clients with senior management that take an active role in inductions. Having the CEO meet a cohort of apprentices is a good way of creating an open and engaging atmosphere. A robust, structured onboarding process is particularly important with retention rates in the first six months.
  2. Cohorts and workshops - Creating cohorts of apprentices is a good way of creating a sense of shared experience and community within the business. Workshops, visits to food providers, and CEO meetups are all good examples of cohort activity, though this may only be applicable to businesses which have a large pool of apprentices.
    Notable examples include a client which has 3 or 4 days of workshops across the year for apprentices. The client mixes different levels of apprentices in the workshops to create a real community feeling, and shows entry-level apprentices there is clear progression.
    This approach is certainly encouraged by the 20% off-the-job training element of apprenticeship standards.
  3. Screening process - An important aspect is the candidate screening process. We screen both external applications and internal nominations against the eligibility criteria agreed by our clients. But the key for any screening process is to make sure candidates are not just eligible, but suitable for the role too.
    Understanding if a candidate will enjoy the role and know responsibilities helps with retention rates further down the line.
  4. Support network - A mentoring scheme is an important addition, especially with young or inexperienced team members. Having an outlet for professional support can help build confidence in an inexperienced team member.

At Lifetime Training, there’s a huge focus on making an apprenticeship a supportive and structured experience. Learners have access to a 24/7 support network, dedicated Learner Support Team, and access to a range of online life skills resources.

George Dee is the Recruitment Manager at Lifetime Training

About the author: George Dee is the Recruitment Manager at Lifetime Training, one of the largest apprenticeship training providers in the UK. Through Lifetime’s free apprenticeship recruitment service, George and his team place around 5,000 apprentices a year across six sectors, from entry-level to advanced.

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