As the Apprenticeship Levy approaches, businesses should take note – apprentices are good for more than just the tea round

Ben Rowland
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The Square Mile - London's Financial District
Lloyd's of London have led the way with City apprenticships (Source: Getty)

When it comes to getting a foot on the career ladder, we all had to start somewhere.

And making a few rounds of tea was one of the tricks of the trade to score some bonus points with your new boss. Sadly some businesses fail to recognise that the skills of a young person go beyond their tea-making abilities.

In recent years some work has been done in the City of London to improve options for school leavers, led by the likes of Lloyd’s of London and Standard Bank.

But the fact remains that London has lagged behind other parts of the country when it comes to investing in apprentice talent. In turn this has fuelled the perception that, without a university degree, the top professional service careers are unreachable.

But this will need to change when the Apprenticeship Levy comes into force on 6 April as it’s likely to affect more businesses in London than anywhere else. Only those with a payroll over £3m will have to pay the levy, with the money going towards funding apprenticeship training.

However, when we recently asked affected businesses how they’re going to handle the change, a disappointing two fifths said they are not planning on using the funds to hire new talent at all.

Changing times

The good news is that a range of quality apprenticeships are available to young people – and existing staff. From data analysts to digital marketers and cyber security experts, today’s apprentices will be the ones future-proofing businesses.

For anyone who’s still sceptical, consider these five reasons why it could pay to invest in young guns:

1) It’s been proven over and over again that more diverse businesses are more successful. Having young people, from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, will add another dimension to the workplace and help tackle group-think – a long-term problem in the City.

2) Sometimes a new hire comes with challenging baggage; they’ve picked up several bad habits in previous roles and they’re not gelling with the rest of your organisation as well as they need to be. An apprentice is a blank canvas who can be moulded and trained in a way which will work best for their progression and the business.

3) While you’re dreading your daily commute, young people are bouncing out of bed and into the office, excited to prove themselves at their first real job. They’re eager to impress and take on challenges which often means they’ll get more done.

4) Young people’s love and genuine aptitude for using different online platforms can be turned to the business’ marketing endeavours. They’re also going to easily pick up the digital skills which the business needs to retain its competitive edge.

5) Everyone has to start somewhere and at the very start of their career, while they’re learning the skills of their trade, it’s highly likely that you’re going to see a good return on investment.

The levy is coming and businesses which embrace the opportunity to access talented, digitally savvy apprentices will thrive as the latter strive to prove themselves and plug gaps companies didn’t even know they had. So next time you send the latest recruit to do the tea round, consider how else they could be making an impact for the business

Ben Rowland is co-founder of Arch Apprentices.­

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