Once seen as the younger, lesser-known sibling of the undergraduate degree, apprenticeships have not always had the easiest time finding the limelight. However, as university tuition becomes increasingly expensive, apprenticeship schemes seem increasingly to be viewed as better-value alternatives.
Considered one of the more beneficial means of vocational training, apprenticeships are usually thought to be compatible with engineering, construction and health and social care.
In the past few years, however, other sectors have started to jump on board, with the help of initiatives such as National Apprenticeship Week and the National Apprenticeship Service. What does this shift in perception mean for the property industry and, more specifically, smaller companies within the sector? Moreover, how will we collaborate to ensure everyone reaps the benefits?
With the recent announcement by the government of an apprenticeship levy to help create three million new apprenticeship starts by 2020, there has never been a better time for the property industry to re-evaluate its long-term strategy to attract young, ambitious recruits.
The levy, payable by companies over a payroll threshold, can be used by employers to fund apprenticeship training, with an allowance from the government to offset against their levy payment and top up funds available to those who access the levy funds for training. Levy funds will be available to the companies paying the levy and to those companies that are below the levy threshold.
Larger companies have tended to be more geared towards fostering young talent than smaller ones because they have the infrastructure.
With new regulations in place, though, smaller companies are coming round to the concept, and weaving in more concrete plans to futureproof their businesses. Many companies find it a pressure to create opportunities for young people, so it is important for the industry to be made aware of the longer-term benefits levies such as these can bring for larger and smaller teams.
At Lunson Mitchenall we recognised the benefits of the levy, having recently brought on board an apprentice to work alongside our support team.
The nine-month programme will allow for a tailored period of work centred around the retail and leisure sectors that benefits not only our apprentice, but also the entire team. If other companies follow suit, apprentices will be able to learn transferable skills and obtain a greater level of confidence and opportunities to pursue careers in sectors they once thought unattainable.
However, the mutual benefits of the apprenticeship scheme are not just limited to knowledge sharing and job prospects for those who struggled to access firms where recruitment was historically focused at postgraduate level.
The initiative has allowed us to revisit training and development programmes within the company to ensure we remain relevant and are listening to what our employees expect of us. Training should not be seen as the icing on the cake but rather a core ingredient for a successful business. Ultimately, this boosts productivity and makes us a more attractive company to work for. Having just been recognised as one of the best places to work in the industry by Property Week, it is clear that going above and beyond pays dividends in the long run.
What does the future of the apprenticeship levy hold? Although many are still treading carefully around the new legislation, it is clear the government is committed to this initiative targeted at educational and social inclusion, and is confident it will be able to hit its three million apprentices target. It will be vital companies do not simply see the levy as an extra tax and fail to use the available funds. Instead, they need to create meaningful apprenticeship opportunities that are fully integrated with the rest of their business strategies.
Collaborating with charitable organisations such as LandAid is another vital way of opening doors for those who have not had the same opportunities as others and helps bring together like-minded companies. Spreading responsibility across all professional sectors will mean that everyone will have their part to play. A shared recognition of the potential of a properly implemented apprenticeship scheme will enable us to create a young and thriving workforce and come even closer to closing the increasing skills gap.