The Leap 100 take skills seriously, but not all are sold on apprentices

 
Katherine Denham
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There are mounting concerns about the skills shortage of school leavers, but some Leap 100 firms are dubious about whether apprenticeships can solve this problem.

With 90 per cent of companies struggling to find the right people to fill positions, the skills gap is costing businesses around £2.2bn a year, according to figures from the Open University.

This is having an impact on Leap 100 firms, of which nearly three quarters said they are concerned about the skill sets of current UK school leavers when it comes to the future of British business.

Many respondents said the skills shortage is rooted in our education system. Timo Boldt from Gusto said: “99 per cent of startups fail. To defy the odds you need the very best people, which means we need world class education. It all starts with education and ends with growth and more prosperity.”

There is also a clear need for schools to nurture skills needed in the tech industry. Sophie Eden from Gordon & Eden said it is essential that schools increase the digital skills in schooling at all levels, so school leavers know how to operate effectively in the digital economy.

Yet one respondent says he has more faith in the school system than apprenticeships to deliver outcomes.

Read more: Apprenticeship levy launched into chaos as firms clueless about new levy

Despite being mired in criticism for being rushed and badly designed, the apprenticeship levy was launched in April to try to tackle the shortfall of skilled workers.

But Leap 100 firms had mixed reactions about the value of apprenticeships, and just over a third of respondents had a scheme in place. Criticism largely centred around the initiative being more costly than it’s worth because some apprentices are simply not committed enough.

It’s clear that some companies do not have the resources or the time needed to make these schemes a success, as one respondent says: “it would be a drain on resources given the necessary focus to make it successful for all those involved”.

Many companies also prefer to recruit university graduates, who tend to require less training and supervision compared to apprentices.

Yet some firms heralded apprenticeships as positive, provided the schemes carve out a proper role for recruits, while also giving apprentices enough time to complete their coursework.

Naomi Trickey from Brandwatch said the levy has created a lot of momentum for businesses looking to develop employees from within the firm, while also offering support to people looking to kickstart their career.

So for new business concerned about skills, apprenticeships are definitely worth considering.

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