From education to employment

Optionis Group bucks national decline and creates more apprenticeships

The Optionis Group, the market-leading professional services provider to contractors and small businesses, headquartered in Warrington, Cheshire, is bucking the national trend by increasing the number of apprentices it is employing and training.

There are now 59 apprentices across the Optionis Group, a 13.5% increase on last year. Most of those apprentices are based at the Warrington head office, with the rest distributed across offices in Birmingham, Blackpool, Hemel Hempstead, Manchester, Newcastle and Poole. The number of Optionis apprentices is set to rise even further, with an increase of almost 58% expected with autumn 2018’s intake. 

The year-on-year increase in the number of apprentices being employed and trained by Optionis contrasts with the decline in the number of apprenticeships nationally. Over the past year, the number of apprenticeship starts nationally declined by 3.5%, from 509,400 to 491,300 in 2016/17. 

With an annual training budget of £1.5m, a dedicated Learning and Development team, an on-site training provider, Paragon Skills, and an in-house training facility, the Optionis Group deliver a range of Accountancy apprenticeships from Level 3 through to Level 7, which enables apprentices to progress with their development and gain qualifications such as AAT and ACCA.  Optionis apprentices who recently sat their UK AAT Advanced Bookkeeping exam scored an average pass rate of 79%, above the national average of 62%.  

Alongside Accountancy apprenticeships, Optionis offers over 17 other programmes, including Business Administration apprenticeships and Team Leading and Management, which includes ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) accreditation. The total investment by the Optionis Group for employee training under the apprenticeship levy since October 2017 is £445, 415. 

Derek Kelly, Chief Executive of Optionis, comments:

“We are continuing to create a record number of apprenticeships and increasing spending on training and development. Most apprentices live locally, so these opportunities help create a direct link to the communities in which we are based. The majority of apprentices continue to work for Optionis once they qualify and some have risen to senior management positions across the organisation.”

“The impact of the new apprenticeship levy and obligations on smaller employers to meet some of the training costs have clearly discouraged the use of apprentices nationally. This is disappointing as apprenticeships are a vital pathway to bringing local people into well-paid jobs and ensuring that the skill needs of the economy are being met.”

He adds: “We are proud to be stepping up our commitment to apprenticeships at a time when many employers are reducing their investment in young people. Our high pass rate is testament to the quality of the training we provide. Once qualified, our apprentices are equipped with valuable skills which opens up many opportunities to progress their careers.”

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