As the year draws to a close, we felt it only right to attempt a review of the year from an apprenticeship perspective. We say attempt because the sheer number of changes, challenges and external factors that employers, and applicants, have had to work to overcome has arguably been more than any year previously reviewed!
Before we dive into reviewing how we overcome these challenges, let’s first remind ourselves of what influencing factors were at play during 2021:
- Increase of working from home due to COVID-19
- Increase in unemployment due to COVID-19
- Brexit resulting in businesses reviewing their UK recruitment
- Changes in the apprenticeship incentive scheme from the UK government
Let’s explore each of these areas further:
Increase of working from home due to COVID-19
When working from home first came around at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers had to overcome a range of challenges around IT, staff training and facilitates management. Once overcome, a lot of people have found that employee productivity has not been negatively affected by working from home. Thus, far more businesses are now offering flexible working, allowing employees to work from the office, home or anywhere that suits them!
This has been great for experienced employees as it supports their work-life balance. However, it has proved challenging for new employees starting in a business, including those starting apprenticeship programmes. Having to navigate training, meeting your team and getting used to the workplace from home is very different to do this in person.
We spoke to one of our ambassadors, Anushka, who started her apprenticeship as a Data Analyst during the lockdown. Anushka stated that “Starting my degree apprenticeship remotely due to COVID-19 was definitely not easy but taught me so much about managing my personal life with work.
Not being able to see any of my colleagues was difficult but it enabled me to learn more about networking online and my professional contacts have definitely grown on a huge scale as I set up meetings with everyone in my team and more – something I wouldn’t have done being in the office and around people all the time!
Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise as now, the hybrid way of working really fits my routine! I’m able to balance work from home and in the office at equal productivity levels.”
It is worth noting that, even though apprenticeships were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, over 50,000 people were able to complete their apprenticeships and 72% of employers have revealed that they plan to take on more apprentices in the next 12 months. This is positive news for the future of the apprenticeship landscape.
Increase in unemployment due to COVID-19
In addition to working from home, COVID-19 also results in redundancies for lots of companies across the country. This gave experienced professionals the opportunity to consider their options and think about where to take their careers next. As we know, a great way to access a new career is via an apprenticeship programme.
This meant that not only were school leavers applying for a reduced number of vacancies, they were also up against candidates with far more experience. Unemployment figures began to stabilise towards the end of 2021. In October 2021, for the United Kingdom as a whole, the unemployment rate was 4.5%, the lowest the rate has been in 2021.
Brexit resulting in businesses reviewing their UK recruitment
According to a new report from think tank New Financial, more than 440 financial services firms have shifted jobs out of London and to the EU as a result of Brexit. The financial industry isn't alone in its strategy and we have seen a similar pattern in other sectors too. This has resulted in less opportunity for apprenticeships, making vacancies that do remain more competitive.
Changes in the apprenticeship incentive scheme from the UK government
During the COVID-19 pandemic, support to businesses across England included providing new apprenticeship opportunities by offering £1,500 for every apprentice they hire as a new employee from 1 August 2020 until 31 March 2021. This figure rose to £2,000 if they hire a new apprentice under the age of 25. This was further increased by the Chancellor in the 2021 budget to £3,000 per apprentice, of any age up until September 2021.
This move was seen positively by apprenticeship providers who were able to utilise the incentive to place candidates into apprenticeships with companies who otherwise may not have been able to afford to take anyone on, thus creating new opportunities.
With employment figures making their way back up to pre COVID-19 times, we believe the future is bright for apprenticeships. The government’s incentive programme shone a light on the benefits of hiring via apprenticeships and employers are now more aware of this route to employ their next wave of new talent into the workforce.
If you need support to outline your apprenticeship recruitment strategy for 2022, please get in touch.