Use of apprenticeships increases amid fight for talent

03 February 2022 3 min. read

Mid-market companies are increasingly making use of apprenticeships as a means of upskilling their people at all levels. Many are using the tactic to prepare staff to fill vacancies from within – as competition for external hires intensifies.

Amid the ‘Great Resignation', companies often struggle with recruiting talent across all lines of business. The pandemic has triggered large swathes of the labour market to re-evaluate its expectations toward work, and as such, a growing number of staff are leaving work which does not meet its expectations – while remaining selective when it comes to selecting new employers.

As businesses struggle to fill vacancies in this environment, many are turning to upskilling their current staff to improve retention – and fill vacancies from within. A new study from Grant Thornton has found that apprenticeship use in the mid-market particularly is set to expand in 2022, with 53% of respondents agreeing that more of their people will be trained using apprenticeships this year than in 2021. 

Use of apprenticeships increases amid fight for talent

From 601 respondents to Grant Thornton’s poll, all but one business said that they currently use apprenticeships to develop their people. The strategic benefits of this were numerous, with 31% of companies hoping that apprenticeships would help to improve social mobility in their business, and 50% agreeing that formal development supports employee wellbeing. 

This demonstrates the major shifts in perception the pandemic has wrought. In 2018, only 86% of mid-market respondents said they used apprenticeships in their organisation, compared to almost all of them now.

Justin Rix, Head of Talent Solutions at Grant Thornton UK, said, “In a climate where job vacancies and attrition are reaching record highs, retention and recruitment of the right skills has never been more critical to business growth. We’re seeing clients taking an increasingly strategic use of apprenticeships to address issues such as improving diversity in the workforce, achieving sustainable recruitment and replacing traditional graduate programmes with highly desirable qualifications.”

As a leading employer of apprenticeships Grant Thornton has long championed the benefits they can offer.  Around 20% of the firm’s UK workforce are currently using apprenticeships for development. According to Rix, as well as the immediate benefits of apprenticeships, firms may also be turning to them because they enable firms to better adapt to market changes.

He added, “The expectations for investment in skills change in line with business confidence in the strength of the economy, when optimism is high, expectation for investment in skills is high… Mid-market employers are increasingly recognising the agility and flexibility of apprenticeships as an effective development tool.”