Apprenticeship use increases in the North West as fight for talent intensifies 

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

With job vacancies and resignations at record highs, Grant Thornton’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* survey shows that there’s an upward trend of apprenticeship use in the mid-market which is set to expand in 2022. 44% of respondents in the North West agreed that more of their people will be trained using apprenticeships this year than in 2021.   

Employers in the region saw additional strategic benefits to apprenticeships with over a third (39%) of the business leaders surveyed saying that apprenticeships had helped to improve social mobility in their business and nearly a third (32%) agreed that formal development supports employee wellbeing. 

The study found that mid-market employers are now using apprenticeships at all levels of the business from entry level to senior management. Over a third of those surveyed (37%) said that the Apprenticeship Levy had been a motivating factor in the increased use.     

This growing use of apprenticeships in the North West mirrors the national picture. From the 601 UK-wide 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.   

Carl Williams, Partner and Practice Leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP in the North West, said: “It is no secret that we’re in a climate where job vacancies and attrition are reaching record highs, yet retention and recruitment of the right skills has never been more critical to business growth.   

Employers across the North West have increasingly recognised that the agility and flexibility of apprenticeships makes them a highly effective development tool.  

Nurturing talent within our North West team is something I am personally very passionate about, so I understand the benefit tailored apprenticeship schemes can bring to the whole business, as well as the individuals own growth.  

“Our clients are understanding that the ability to tailor apprenticeships to specific requirements is especially valuable and businesses are also using these courses to bring new skills in valuable fields such as digital, finance and data analysis into their 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, 42% of businesses in the North West, 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 19%.      

Carl Williams 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 changes in line with confidence in the strength of the economy. This confidence has fluctuated over the past two years, with the turbulence caused by the pandemic leading many businesses to realise that while they need to develop they also require cost effective solutions tailored to facilitating growth. The Apprenticeship Levy helps with this and has become an integrated part of Learning and Development funding for many firms over the last few years by providing full funding for qualifications up to master’s degree level.”    

As a leading employer of apprenticeships Grant Thornton has long championed the benefits they can offer and this month the firm’s Talent Solutions team are running a series of events to support National Apprenticeship WeekAround 20% of Grant Thornton’s UK workforce are currently using apprenticeships for development and it also partners with leading training and education providers to deliver high quality, Levy funded, development programmes with practical application from the outset. 


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