Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 February), new research from Grant Thornton UK LLP reveals that, as attrition rates remain stubbornly high, mid-market businesses intend to increase the use of apprenticeships to train and upskill their workers.
Nearly two thirds (60%) of the 602 mid-market business leader respondents* agreed that more of their employees would be trained using apprenticeships in 2024 than in 2023, with 57% planning to use apprenticeships to fill skills gaps in data and digital.
The core priority areas for skills development investment are digital (80%), financial (79%) and leadership (79%). These skills investment priorities reflect the increased uptake of apprenticeships to develop talent throughout the whole career lifecycle. Grant Thornton’s research finds that mid-market employers are now using apprenticeships for development at all levels, from entry level to senior management.
Ongoing competition for talent is driving employers’ need for skills investment across all levels. Over half (58%) of respondents say they are still experiencing unusually high attrition rates, down only slightly from 61% last year.
Attracting new talent is also a significant challenge, with over half of respondents saying they are struggling to recruit – both to replace leavers (54%) and for growth (55%). Nearly two thirds of employers (63%) say they are offering higher salaries to entice new recruits, whereas 66% are offering pay increases and bonuses to reward and retain talent.
Justin Rix, Head of Talent Solutions at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said, “Organisations face numerous challenges in attracting and retailing talent. As wage increases and flexible working demands shape the way the expectations that employees have, businesses must find increasingly innovative ways to attract, and keep, the most talented people.
“We’re seeing clients make increasing use of apprenticeships as a strategic tool for developing skills that their organisation needs across all levels, with the added benefit that apprenticeships can be tailored to specific business requirements and improve retention and attract talent by providing individuals with the opportunity to gain valuable qualifications and future proof skills Over half of respondents (59%) also said that apprenticeships also help to increase access to and opportunities for diverse talent.
“For employers already paying the Apprenticeship Levy (those with a pay bill of more than £3 million), the apprenticeship route can also be very cost effective, as Levy contributions can be put towards the cost of training.”
Grant Thornton partners with a select group of high-quality training providers to co-design and co-deliver apprenticeship programmes that help individuals develop some of the most sought-after skills such as leadership and management, accountancy, coaching and data analytics. The development programmes can be paid for by the Apprenticeship Levy, which organisations are already paying if their paybill exceeds £3 million.
Mark Gaden is a Learning and Development Manager at waste management specialist, Grundon said, “We wanted to know what would give us the best outcomes and where to focus so we could really make an impact for the business.
“At Grundon, we have a great track record of developing our managers and supervisors in technical skills and competencies, but we identified a great opportunity to develop and enhance the soft skills that will underpin their management and leadership effectiveness.
“This gave us a clear direction and the breadth of apprenticeships that Grant Thornton offers, in partnership with their provider partners, covered a huge array of what we needed.”