This week is National Apprenticeship Week, and I’m looking forward to visiting several local East Hampshire businesses tomorrow, each employing apprentices.
This includes a carpentry and joinery apprentice at D&A Home and Garden in Bordon, a marketing apprentice at a Print IT & Design in Liphook, and a barbering apprentice at Rockafella Barbers, also in Liphook.
These particular positions are also supported by East Hampshire District Council through their own apprenticeship scheme that subsides wages and contributes towards transport and training costs for apprentices joining businesses in the district.
There have been more than 5.2 million apprenticeship starts in England since May 2010, and official figures show there were 1,040 people on apprenticeships in East Hampshire during 2021/22, which was a small increase on the year before.
And I know from visits I make to local companies that more and more businesses recognise it as a great way to grow talent and to develop a skilled and qualified workforce.
Businesses can employ apprentices at different levels, from school leavers and university graduates, to people who want to further their careers or change career direction completely.
Companies can hire someone new or develop the skills of an existing employee.
And as an apprentice, people earn a wage, work alongside experienced staff, gain job-specific skills, and get time for training and study that is related to their role.
With different apprenticeship levels available, individuals can work towards valuable qualifications equivalent to GCSEs, A-levels, Highers or even a degree.
With record levels of employment here in the UK, it is critical we develop the skills needed for economic growth, whether that is someone just leaving school or an older person looking to change career paths or, indeed, return to work after a break.
An apprenticeship is a great way to not only learn new skills, but also to gain confidence in a new role or a new sector.
The theme for this year is Skills for Life, reinforcing how apprenticeships can help people to improve their career prospects, even if it means taking on a new and completely different choice of job, at any age.
Lifelong learning is central to the government’s approach to education, recognising that the skills needed by businesses continue to change and workers need to adapt to take advantage of these opportunities.
While there is a broader need to bolster the post-16 system to make sure there is a range of choices on offer that can lead to respected qualifications and good jobs, it is important apprenticeships are there for everyone because talent is not defined simply by age, geography or background.
The longer-term prosperity of the UK depends not only on businesses in key growth areas investing here in the UK and it being an attractive place for innovators and entrepreneurs, but it also relies on having the workforce able to support that growth.
More work is being done to better understand the barriers to workforce participation, particularly for those who have left employment since the start of the pandemic, but apprenticeships are certainly a good way to help people into work and for employers to build skills within their own workforces.
For any local employer, training provider, parent/guardian or individual keen to find out more, contacting the local Apprenticeship & Skills Hub (www.theapprenticeshiphub.com) is the best place to start, with advisers who can provide impartial advice on everything to do with apprenticeships and skills in our area.