From education to employment

Empowering Apprentices Overcoming Challenges for Success

Students working

New report finds 99 per cent of employers recognise the benefits of offering apprenticeships but face challenges in supporting apprentices to complete them.

A new report, ‘Enabling Better Outcomes: A Wider View of Apprenticeship Success’, commissioned by The St Martin’s Group, has found that while 99 per cent of employers recognise the benefits of offering apprenticeships, they face barriers in supporting the apprentice to successfully complete.

Building on the St Martin’s Group’s previous report which shared the apprentice perspective on apprenticeship outcomes and destinations, this research provides a comprehensive review into what apprenticeship success looks like to employers.

With a lack of employer support previously cited as the main reason for apprenticeship withdrawals, these findings will help address this issue by revealing the most effective incentives for gaining employer support. The findings will also be useful in informing how the sector can meet the Government’s 67 per cent achievement target by 2025.

Conducting this research, produced in partnership with Learning and Work Institute (L&W), more than 800 apprenticeship employers were surveyed to better understand what leads to successful completions and any challenges they face. Key findings include that:

  • Almost all employers view apprenticeship completion as important but only 1 in 3 report completion rates of over 75%
  • Support offered to apprentices, particularly in relation to off the job training and pastoral care leads to higher completion rates
  • The biggest barrier to providing support is time off  to study/complete assignments/off the job training
  • Employers say that financial support for completions and to cover the costs of off the job training would help them the most

The report further highlights that the top reasons for employers wanting apprentices to complete are because apprentices gain better technical and ‘soft’ skills; gain more industry knowledge and experience; and show increased productivity. 

However, the report also reveals that some employers struggle to help apprentices complete their programme due to a lack of funding and challenges around funding rules (28 per cent); staff capacity limitations (30 per cent); poor relationships with providers (31 per cent); and the ability to allow apprentices time to study and complete off-the-job training (32 per cent).

Brenda McLeish OBE, Co-Chair of The St Martin’s Group and CEO of Learning Curve Group, and Jane Hadfield, Co-Chair of The St Martin’s Group and National Lead, Talent for Care and NHS Apprenticeships Workforce, Training and Education, NHS England

We know that apprenticeships are an incredibly important career pathway, that are integral part of the Government’s skills policy in England. We are really encouraged by the findings in our report that show that the majority of employers see the value in  helping apprentices complete their programmes.

“In order to create a comprehensive and accessible system that supports the development of a skilled, adaptable workforce, we would recommend that  targeted solutions including incentives for  employers to support their apprentices in completing their programmes. We know that completing an apprenticeship is vital to enabling better outcomes.

The report, calls for greater employer support from the sector, with a series of recommendations, including:

  • Greater support for employers to enable off-the-job training, with a suggestion for the Department for Education (DfE) to convene a stakeholder group to assess how employers can ensure sufficient off the job training time is provided.
  • More pastoral support provided by employers, particularly to young apprentices, as well as specific support to train line managers.
  • DfE guidance that is easily accessible and which sets out the responsibilities of employers and line managers to apprentices, as well as sector-specific guidance where needed.
  • More frequent publication of data regarding the benefits of apprenticeships, helping employers place more value on completions.
  • Making financial support available where needed, and for the DfE to consider widening the eligibility for FE Learner Support funding to include young apprentices and those on programmes at or below Level 3.
  • Closer working relationships between employers and providers to help develop stronger and more successful relationships that support completions.
  • Accelerating the integration of end point assessments and mandatory qualifications to help minimise the number of apprentices that withdraw before completing them.

Stephen Evans, CEO of Learning and Work Institute, said:

“High quality apprenticeships can benefit people, employers and our economy, but we need to expand apprenticeship opportunities and raise completion rates. Our research shows that ensuring apprentices have sufficient time to undertake their training and sufficient wider support in their roles is vital but that current practice is too patchy. Virtually all employers we surveyed said completing an apprenticeship was important, so we need to spread the message on what works and embed best practice in supporting apprentices across our economy.”

Related Articles