Using apprenticeships to maximise manufacturing industry talent

10 February 2021

In our joint survey with Make UK, manufacturers told us that creating jobs and filling the skills gap should be the most important factor when considering what infrastructure the country should invest in to support UK manufacturing and to ‘level up’ our economy. Even though 56 per cent of employers were somewhat confident they could fill their skills gap in the next 12 months, over a third were not. This means employers need to be able to retain existing employees, enhance their skills and attract new talent to the industry – and apprenticeships in manufacturing could be the key.

While parts of the sector are long standing advocates for the positive impact of apprenticeships, this cannot be said for all. With the powerful combination of the continuing skills shortage, the current uncertainty of labour markets caused by Brexit and an ageing workforce, the time is now to ensure that staff have the right skills at all levels.

In this article we look at apprenticeships in manufacturing, and explain the benefits of using apprenticeships to train new and experienced workers.

How does the manufacturing sector engage with apprenticeships?

Forty per cent of vacancies in the manufacturing industry are due to a shortage of skills, qualifications or experience. This tells us that the industry’s talent pipeline isn’t working.

By training and upskilling experienced and new hires, manufacturing organisations will build a more robust talent pipeline. And given that 77 per cent of those who complete them go on to remain with their employer, apprenticeships are a proven sustainable and long-term option.

But manufacturing remains behind other industries in their training commitments, with only 48 per cent of workers receiving internal training compared to the 60 per cent average in other sectors. 

Why aren't more manufacturers hiring apprentices?

Where employees were recruited as new staff, or specifically as apprentices, apprenticeship training has been positive. But less than 49 per cent of employers offer apprenticeships to existing staff, and improving this would help close the skills gap.

Where the industry uses apprenticeships they are seen as a positive, but only 21 per cent currently offer them and just 33 per cent plan to offer them in the future. Something is deterring the industry from properly engaging with apprenticeships, but what is it?

The industry is diverse, so it may be that some do not consider apprenticeships appropriate. This could be about affordability, due to the size of their workforce. But the reality is that apprenticeships are an opportunity to use funding to better equip a business with new skills. And that isn’t the only business benefit of apprenticeships.

Why are apprenticeships in manufacturing worth investing in?

Workforce benefits:

  • Address skills gaps by cultivating what is needed rather hiring than what is available.
  • Develop, upskill and progress existing staff, dramatically improving staff retention.
  • Create an internal talent pipeline, reducing your recruitment costs.
  • Improve staff morale and wellbeing by creating a culture of continuous development.
  • Make improvements to operational productivity and quality.

Social mobility and a diversity benefits:

  • In hiring staff who need development and training, employers can eliminate the need for their staff to have invested in training themselves – resulting in much clearer social mobility. 
  • Apprenticeships also help with diversification of workforces, which can provide fresh ideas, approaches and perspectives for the business to nurture – a huge advantage in an industry where innovation is key. 

Setting and refining your apprenticeships strategy

There is no one right way to implement or develop a strategy for apprenticeships. Defining your goals and managing the associated risks will help you maintain your long-term vision. In the current climate, making the most of the apprenticeship levy and using available funds effectively is also key. 

Regardless of where you are in your apprenticeship journey, we can help you ask the right questions to frame your thinking. The right questions will depend on where you are in your apprenticeships journey which, in our experience, happens in six stages:

  1. You see value in apprenticeships but haven’t launched a programme
  2. You’ve bought into the idea of an apprenticeship but need a strategy
  3. You have a digital account but have queries/need to troubleshoot issues
  4. You need to appoint training providers who deliver quality and value
  5. You need / want to continuously monitor performance to keep apprenticeships in
  6. You want to distribute levy funds through the supply chain

Don’t get left behind, invest in apprenticeships now

The Open University Business Barometer recently found that 62 per cent of engineering and construction employers expect to hire more apprentices in the next 12 months.

What’s more, there are incentives available for all employers who take on new apprentices from 1 February 2021 to 31 March 2021. For apprentices aged 16 to 24 employers will receive £2,000, and £1,500 for new apprentices aged 25 and over.

This means you should start understanding how they can add value to your business now, to stay ahead in the future.

Mike Thornton
Mike  Thornton
Regional Managing Partner, Yorkshire & North-East and Head of Manufacturing
Mike Thornton
Mike  Thornton
Regional Managing Partner, Yorkshire & North-East and Head of Manufacturing