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National Apprenticeship Week: Using apprenticeships as a workforce planning tool

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Economic uncertainties are forcing businesses to update and rethink their skills requirements, to make sure they have the workforce and future skills required to navigate financial pressures while remaining competitive in their markets.

Nichola Hay, Director of Apprenticeship Strategy and Policy at BPP explains that as a result, the so-called war for well-fitting talent wages on, with research suggesting that around 75% of UK businesses are experiencing talent shortages, staggering business and economic growth.

To tackle this challenge, business leaders must invest more strategically to not only equip their existing workforce with the necessary skills to fill critical vacancies, but to also attract a wider pool of new talent. This could be achieved by introducing professional apprenticeship programmes that can help businesses continuously adapt to changes in skills requirements, while boosting resilience towards unexpected economic changes.

The business case for introducing apprenticeships

The full potential of an apprenticeship programme can be overlooked by the business community – typically associating it with creating a pipeline solely for school/college leaver talent. But in reality, professional apprenticeship programmes can be tailored to a businesses’ needs.

Whether they’re used for attracting talent with a fresh perspective and skills to identify new business opportunities, used as a tool to retrain existing employees, or to upskill workers in emerging or nascent areas such as AI and green skills – apprenticeships should be seen as an essential tool for both workforce planning and people development.

Moreover, offering an apprenticeship programme can create new channels to build and attract a more diverse talent pool. Whether it’s full-time carers, the long-term economically inactive or recent graduates looking to enter/re-enter the workforce, an apprenticeship can create an opportunity for those candidates who may never have applied for a role due to their lack of direct experience or traditional qualifications.

Boosting staff retention

One of the biggest challenges for businesses facing economic headwinds and rising operational costs, is the knock-on impact on employees, who may be facing short-term salary stagnation and, consequently, seeking other employment at competitor organisations. This creates further unfillable vacancies and can deliver a significant blow to a business’ productivity.

Apprenticeships are a great way to address these challenges, equipping employees with new skills and providing them with a pathway to promotion, strengthening the business’ credentials as a supportive employer during difficult economic times. For example, if a business is short of staff in middle management, instead of looking for talent externally in a tricky labour market, and potentially hiring someone less skilled than desired – an apprenticeship programme would allow existing staff to retrain for promotion. This can unlock potential that already exists in the current workforce while boosting employee morale.

Final thoughts

Through apprenticeships, developing the skills of your staff will not only help improve business resilience by creating a diverse, multi-talented workforce, but it will also support with staff motivation and retention. By providing staff with the opportunity to upskill, retrain for promotion, or transfer to other areas of the business, businesses can show a strong commitment to their progress and development.

Although professional apprenticeship programmes won’t be the answer to all business needs and challenges, they can provide an excellent solution to many critical problems. It can act as a workforce planning tool to close skills gaps tailored to the requirements of what businesses have to offer, boost talent retention, and create a more diverse talent pool.

Apprenticeships can also create a highly resilient workforce essential to fuel business growth and seize new opportunities for expansion during times when organisations may need it the most.

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