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News release

Mid-market use of apprenticeships increases

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (7-13 February) new research from Grant Thornton UK LLP shows that the mid-market is increasingly making use of apprenticeships as a means of upskilling their people at all levels.     

From the 601 respondents to Grant Thornton’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* survey, all but one business said that they currently use apprenticeships to develop their people. This has increased from a similar study conducted by the firm in 2018**, when 86% of mid-market respondents said they used apprenticeships in their organisation.   

With job vacancies and resignations at record highs, this upward trend of apprenticeship use in the mid-market is set to expand in 2022, with 53% of respondents agreeing that more of their people will be trained using apprenticeships this year than in 2021.  Employers saw additional strategic benefits to apprenticeships with a third (31%) of the business leaders surveyed saying that apprenticeships had helped to improve social mobility in their business and half (50%) agreeing that formal development supports employee wellbeing. 

The study found that mid-market organisations are now using apprenticeships at all levels of the business from entry level to senior management.  Half of those surveyed (50%) said that the Apprenticeship Levy had been a motivating factor in the increased use.    

Justin Rix, Head of Talent Solutions at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:    

“Mid-market employers are increasingly recognising the agility and flexibility of apprenticeships as an effective development tool.  In a climate where job vacancies and attrition are reaching record highs, retention and recruitment of the right skills has never been more critical to business growth.  We’re seeing clients taking an increasingly strategic use of apprenticeships to address issues such as improving diversity in the workforce, achieving sustainable recruitment and replacing traditional graduate programmes with highly desirable qualifications.

“Employers particularly value the flexibility of apprenticeships and the ability to tailor courses for specific development requirements.  High priority areas of digital skills, finance function talent attraction and upskilling, data analysis through to degree level, or management qualifications to retain top talent – all bring new skills into the business and are applicable to every organisation.”  

According to rolling data from Grant Thornton’s Business Outlook Tracker*, investment expectations for skills development in the mid-market have fluctuated greatly throughout the challenges of 2021. At the start of 2021, 47% of businesses said they intended to invest more in skills development over the next six months, a figure which has gone up and down throughout the year, last recorded in December at 31%.     

Justin Rix suggests that this dip in investment expectations has less to do with appetite for skills development than it does with rapidly changing priorities, “The expectations for investment in skills change in line with business confidence in the strength of the economy, when optimism is high, expectation for investment in skills is high.     

“The turbulence of the previous two years means that whilst businesses recognise the need for development, they also require cost effective solutions that are specifically tailored to helping their business grow.  That’s where the Apprenticeship Levy comes in.  The Levy has become an integrated part of Learning and Development funding for thousands of our clients over the last few years, with full funding available for qualifications up to master’s degree level.”   

As a leading employer of apprenticeships Grant Thornton has long championed the benefits they can offer.  Around 20% of the firm’s UK workforce are currently using apprenticeships for development.   

The firm also partners with leading training and education providers to deliver high quality, Levy-funded development programmes with practical application from the outset.  Examples include the 2021 launch of four Level 6 degree apprenticeships at MK:U a new higher education institution in Milton Keynes, the launch of two new data apprenticeship programmes in partnership with BPP Education Group and the Cranfield Executive MBA