Having been ignored for decades, apprenticeships are back for good. According to the government, ‘over 2.1m people have started apprenticeships this Parliament, with a six-fold increase in higher apprenticeships started since 2009-10’. The number is planned to increase and there’s an apprenticeship voucher scheme on the way, scheduled for roll-out in 2017. In yesterday’s Budget from Chancellor George Osborne, the apprentice wage went up by 57p an hour to £3.30 – equivalent to an annual salary increase of over £1,000 for a full time worker.
Good news following the conclusion of Apprenticeship Week just last Friday.
Putting aside the inevitable political wrangling over the Chancellor’s Budget by all sides, the fact remains that there was also significant impetus for British employers to think again about the advantages of employing apprentices if they hadn’t already taken notice.
It’s a subject close to CJAM Group as we have our own apprentice and the benefits have been substantial. They aren’t simply centred on the relative cost advantages – it’s the value added across our business as a whole.
Yesterday’s announcement of the removal of employer National Insurance Contributions, of course, focused attention on the financial. As of 6 April this year, employers will no longer make NIC payments (currently 13.8%) for employees under the age of 21 who are earning below £42,385pa – which is the vast majority of them, one would assume. The age limit for exemptions will then rise to 25 years-old for apprentices from 6 April next year.
While it may be possible for a new government to reverse that, the commitment to increasing the number of apprenticeships from all political shades makes it unlikely.
So, this year’s Budget has bolstered the case for costs of employing younger people and especially apprenticeships but ‘cost’ and ‘value’ have significantly different meanings, and it’s the value of apprenticeships which most appeals.
The CJAM Group case in point is our apprentice, 20 year-old Lucy Mitchell who works in our marketing team. She’d lived and studied abroad for many years and returned to the UK after completing her International Baccalaureate. For Lucy, joining the CJAM Group offered a chance to earn and learn in the industry she was interested to join.
For CJAM Group, we struck gold. What we are looking for from our younger employees are very similar qualities as those required by universities: commitment and ambition, supported by a solid education and qualifications. We secured a talented, and ambitious individual at a competitive wage that we could sustain. She’s certainly university calibre.
All those elements have contributed to our business but Lucy has brought benefits in the more ‘human’ side of office life. She brings a fresh approach and outlook, which has quickly established her as part of the team. In short, employing an apprentice has been an entirely positive experience for the CJAM Group and one we will be repeating.
Although an apprentice officially has a one year tenure, we consider this source of talent to be a potential pipeline for our long-term staffing needs. While CJAM Group is only a typically-sized small business in our area with 14 employees, we strongly believe in giving young people a chance to flourish in our business. The apprenticeship scheme has worked for us and we encourage you to take a fresh look at its benefits to your business.