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A report commissioned by the @OpenUniversity and @5PercentClubUK has found that nearly three quarters (70%) of employers held the belief that apprenticeships and work-based learning would be vital to their organisations’ recovery from COVID disruption, compared to just half (50%) of business who were asked in August 2020.

The Open University commissioned PCP to survey over 600 businesses in England between 5 and 14 January 2021. The full report will be published as part of The Open University and The 5% Club webinar ‘How apprenticeships can develop the future beyond the pandemic’ on Thursday 11 February.

The report found that the number of organisations planning to increase their apprenticeship intake over the next twelve months has seen an 11% increase, with nearly three quarters (72%) now planning on hiring more apprentices over the next year, up from under two thirds (61%) polled last summer. With these figures being reflected in the view of both SMEs and large businesses.

Some of the most hard-hit sectors are lagging behind when it comes to embracing work-based learning, with just 48 per cent of employers in the arts, recreation and entertainment sectors planning to hire more apprentices over the next year.

At the same time sectors that have experienced a boom during the pandemic are set to see a further boost in workforce skills, as 81 per cent of employers within the information and digital services sector currently planning to increase their apprenticeship cohort.

Organisations that have prioritised the skills of their workforce and embraced apprenticeships can feel the benefit. Two thirds of English companies (66%) report that apprenticeships have enabled their organisation to bounce-back from the economic fall-out of the pandemic more quickly.

In line with National Apprenticeship Week’s 2021 theme, ‘Build The Future’, The Open University is encouraging employers to look to work-based learning to grow their own skills, build agility and to future-proof their organisations.

Laura Burley, Apprenticeships Ambassador at The Open University responded to the findings: “At The Open University we’ve seen first hand the steadying effect that embracing training and education has had on organisations throughout the pandemic. Not only does a continuous culture of workplace learning allow businesses to remain agile and competitive in these challenging times, but has also provided a vital means of retaining loyalty, engagement and adaptability when workforces are dispersed across the country.

“It’s encouraging to see that English employers are feeling more optimistic about apprenticeships now than at previous stages of the pandemic, and the arrival of the vaccine has certainly brought a sense of hope to what has been a hugely disrupted year. But with further pressures and challenges on the horizon, the need to invest in workforces and remain adaptable will continue to be an essential for organisations’ survival for years to come.”

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