How rural businesses can benefit from apprenticeship schemes

With over 90 per cent of apprentices going into full-time employment, this group is rapidly closing the gap on their university counterparts in terms of employability, while having a significant impact on businesses’ futures.

While apprenticeship schemes benefit a wide-range of businesses from large corporations to start-ups, they can have a significant impact on businesses based in rural areas.  With reports highlighting that the British countryside is in crisis, as an increasing number of young people leave these pockets for a number of reasons, rural businesses are competing with the allure of the big cities to hire fresh, young talent. As a result, introducing an apprenticeship programme has a wide-range of benefits for both the younger generation and the rural business.  Advantages range from contributing to retaining talent in the local community, learning practical skills, increasing productivity and securing the long-term future of your business to inspiring passion to join your industry.  It also enables investment in the learning and employment of young people looking to join your sector, helping to influence their future career decisions.

Taking all of this into account, we really should be singing the benefits of apprenticeships for both rural businesses and the next generation far and wide.

Advantages of Apprenticeship Schemes

Establishing an apprenticeship programme is an investment in the future of your business, as well as in the local economy.  With over 60 per cent of apprentices under the age of 25, an effective scheme will help create and retain the next generation of highly trained workers and ensure that specialist skills are kept in the workforce. With reports flying around that the UK is in the wraps of a dramatic skills shortage – within the food manufacturing sector 170,000 staff are expected to retire over the next five years – having an apprenticeship programme is an excellent means to replenish any shortages you may be experiencing while teaching young people skills and increasing their earning potential.

Finding effective ways of retaining talent is especially important for businesses located in rural areas, and is something we at Tyrrells are very conscious of. Implementing an apprenticeship scheme has allowed us to demonstrate that highly-skilled jobs are available for talented young people in our rural community and that they can build a successful career without having to move to the city, while allowing us to give back to the Herefordshire community.

While you will need to take the time to teach your apprentices the necessary skills, in the long-term implementing an apprenticeship programme can create strong brand advocates and help increase your company’s performance. However, it’s not only skills you can impart to younger generations, as implementing a scheme is a beneficial method to integrate them into the wider business and educate them on career opportunities available, encouraging passion for your sector while inspiring enthusiasm in your brand.

Apprenticeship schemes are a valuable resource that hold huge potential, and in order for them to be more widely implemented, the government has introduced initiatives to increase the number of apprenticeships to three million by 2020. In the latest Autumn Budget Statement, the Chancellor outlined plans for a new apprenticeship levy to enhance the quality of apprenticeships going into the workforce.

Starting an Apprenticeship Scheme 

Setting up an apprenticeship scheme is a relatively easy process, and the time you spend implementing it now is relatively small compared to the rewards young people and your business could reap further down the line. To help your business harness the talent and potential available, we’ve put together our five top tips on starting an apprenticeship scheme.

  1. Utilise government support. There are a range of incentives available, so investigate what support your business may be entitled to.  For instance companies which bring on board an apprentice under 25 years, and currently employ less than 50 people, are entitled to a grant of £1,500.  Funding is also available to cover the costs of any qualification your business provides formal training in, which in some circumstances could cover the entire cost.
  2. Get clued up on apprenticeship regulations and requirements. The legislation relating to employing an apprentice has changed, so make sure you understand your obligations as a business and as an employer.  Examples of these include paying at least the national minimum wage, and providing at least 30 hours employment a week.
  3. Implement a structured approach.  An effective apprenticeship programme will provide the knowledge and skills needed to work in your industry, including on and off the job training, as well as fully integrating the apprentice into the company, allowing them to gain a broad understanding of the different components and roles. This in turn can encourage passion and excitement for the sector by inspiring apprentices to identify the areas where they can work and understand how their role contributes to the wider business.
  4. Identify where an apprentice will most benefit your business. To ensure your apprenticeship scheme is working effectively, place candidates in the areas which have the greatest learning potential and need for support.
  5. Decide on the level of apprenticeship you will offer. There are three levels of apprenticeship available for those aged 16 and over: Intermediate, Advanced and Higher.  These are equivalent to GCSEs, A levels and Foundation Degrees respectively.  Identify which classification is most suited to your apprenticeship scheme and the roles the apprentices will fill.
  6. Determine whether you will work alongside a training provider or college.  Many businesses run their apprenticeship schemes in collaboration with a college or training provider, these organisations provide the formal teaching which makes up part of any apprentice programme.  Establishing partnerships with local colleges can also build ties with the local community and provide a good source of apprentice candidates.

Instilling passion and providing opportunities for apprentices is so integral to ensuring a steady stream of talent across a range of industries, while contributing to the rural economy.  Providing opportunties for the young generation helps to maintain the countryside population, increasing the pool of talent available, as well as adding to the growth and future prosperity of a company.  Any successful business will be constantly investing in ways to improve their operational quality and efficiency, but it is those companies that provide additional value that will gain the most return.