The growing importance of apprenticeship schemes

In March, the government announced it wanted businesses to do more to improve society, and launched a 12-week “Social value in government procurement” consultation, asking for views on how it can take account of social value in the awarding of central government contracts.

It’s no small change, as the British government is responsible for £49 billion worth of public sector contracting, and the consultation reflects a wider shift in how CSR is working its way into procurement.

Within the consultation, there’s a focus on apprenticeship schemes and MP Robert Halfon, chair of the House of Commons’ education select committee and previously minister for skills and apprenticeships, told BBT: “Apprenticeships play a crucial role in achieving social justice. Businesses can offer people the chance to climb the skills ladder of opportunity and get the job prosperity, certainty and skills our country needs.

“They are a vital tool in meeting this country’s skills deficit and provide added value to businesses, while ensuring their workforces are trained. Surveys show that apprentices are very loyal employees to the companies that have trained them.”

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of attracting young people, returners to work and those transferring from other sectors

Within the travel industry, suppliers should be taking note. One travel buyer says: “Within my own organisation we do now have an extensive apprenticeship programme, and some of the new talent that is appearing on the scheme is going on to add real value within the business.

“As part of all our supplier engagements, their corporate social responsibility record is a factor we consider prior to appointments. Increasingly, this includes their record in terms of apprenticeship opportunities. We would be more positive to suppliers that have a strong CSR programme and a maturing apprenticeship scheme.”

Which should be good news for Premier Inn, among many others. The hotel group’s parent company Whitbread last year launched a “digital apprenticeship scheme” as part of its Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment (WISE) initiative to train candidates in digital-related specialisms.

Spark and passion
Catherine Braybrook, Premier Inn’s head of learning and development, says: “As most good employers know, good exam results are not always indicative of performance in the working world. What we really value is the ability to employ the people with the right attitude for the job – people with a spark and passion you just can’t teach.”

Good news, too, for British Airways, which recently launched a cabin crew recruitment campaign for 2,000 entrants at its Global Learning Academy. “The programme will see them gain qualifications in English, maths and digital skills, access to a dedicated mobile app to track their progress and continuous development coaching from a certified apprenticeship coach,” BA says.

We would be more positive to suppliers that have a strong CSR programme and a maturing apprenticeship scheme

Meanwhile, the Hospitality Apprenticeships Showcase took place in March, giving UKHospitality – the former British Hospitality Association – the chance to stalk Westminster’s corridors of power promoting its UKHospitality Academy to MPs.

“Our ambition is to see the UKHospitality Academy as a way of attracting career-minded talent into the sector, upskilling the existing workforce and driving improved staff retention,” the organisation says. “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of attracting young people, returners to work, those transferring from other sectors, and many more, into the sector. Evidence shows that apprenticeships and training increase staff retention rates and loyalty to businesses.”

The consultation (gov.uk/government/consultations/social-value-in-government-procurement) ends on 10 June, and offers useful insight into an area that will almost inevitably become a consideration in procurement processes across all sectors.

While value for money will always be a key component in the procurement process, suppliers should not underestimate the value of apprenticeship schemes.

Find out more about apprenticeship schemes in our BBT Roundtable coverage   

Apprentices wanted!

According to the Trading Economics consultancy, the UK’s youth unemployment rate is 11.5 per cent, compared with the overall unemployment rate of 4 per cent. It’s not all about young people, however. The Trades’ Union Congress (TUC) says ex-offenders find it disproportionately difficult to return to the world of work and Royal British Legion Industries runs a LifeWorks programme to help armed forces veterans struggling to find jobs. Travelodge has just launched a flexible-hours recruitment drive – with on-the-job training – to encourage up to 3,000 parents back into a work environment that fits around drop-off and pick-up times. The apprenticeships.gov.uk website provides statutory information and links to apprenticeship training providers, while the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education gives more specific information at instituteforapprenticeships.org.

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