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Published 26 January 2022 at 12:22pm

Helen George

Helen George, Assistant Director (Education, Skills and Employability) of South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, looks at how apprenticeships could help South Yorkshire to build a better future, following the pandemic.

“We are rapidly approaching National Apprenticeship Week (7-13 February) which this year has the theme ‘Build the Future’. Here in South Yorkshire there is much to celebrate when you consider the impact that apprenticeships are having on businesses. We have some fantastic stories of people of all ages who are achieving success or enhancing their careers through apprenticeships. I am constantly amazed by the new ideas, enthusiasm and can-do attitude that apprentices bring to a business. We look forward to sharing these real-life stories over the next few weeks and the achievements and contributions they have made to businesses.

Before the Pandemic, there were between 10 – 15, 000 apprenticeship starts in South Yorkshire every year. Although South Yorkshire has seen a fall in apprenticeship starts during the pandemic, employers are looking to recruit apprentices again, recognising the value they add to their businesses. Small businesses in South Yorkshire employ the majority of apprentices - 82.2% of the total, medium size businesses employ 12.3% and large businesses employ just 5.5% of apprentices.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, there is evidence that up to 90%* of apprentices are kept on by their employers upon completion of their course and nearly one quarter of apprentices are promoted within 12 months of completing their programme. 2. They really do bring added value and many have a natural ability to embrace the latest technology, which is exactly what many South Yorkshire businesses are looking for.

The last 18 months, since the start of the pandemic have been extremely challenging, both for businesses and for young people accessing the jobs market for the first time. SYMCA set out in our Renewal Action Plan in 2021 the important role that we saw for apprenticeships in helping businesses to recover and rebuild following the impact of the pandemic. Here we committed to creating 3,000 apprenticeships and other training positions, supporting even more young people into sustainable employment.

Employers across industry are recognising the huge impact that apprentices can make to their business. With the bespoke training that can be provided as part of an apprenticeship, employers can shape their workforce with the skills they need to help the business grow and thrive. Young people too are seizing the opportunity to be paid while they learn and to access career opportunities with a clear pathway to progress into high value careers in the future.

As businesses recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, now is a really great time to think about hiring apprentices or even setting up your own apprenticeship scheme.”

Andrew Hartley
Andrew Hartley – Executive Director of The Sheffield College and SCR Network Training Provider Board Member, looks at some of the reasons why:

Support and Collaboration with the network of Apprenticeship providers in South Yorkshire

“One of the many benefits of being located in South Yorkshire is that we have a very strong training provider network, made up of 40 plus highly professional and experienced companies. These providers are dedicated to delivering Apprenticeship training programmes by working collaboratively with employers and young people.

By engaging with your local authority or the South Yorkshire Growth Hub, businesses can be signposted to local colleges or private training providers best suited to their needs.

Here in South Yorkshire, we have many experienced and well-resourced centres of apprenticeship training. These include the University of Sheffield’s AMRC Training Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, The Sheffield College, RNN Group including Rotherham College, Barnsley College and DN Group including Doncaster College. In addition there are a wide range of independent training providers available through the SCR Provider Network.

For more details visit The SCR Provider Network website or for more information visit The South Yorkshire Business website

Benefits to your business: Address the skill shortage

There are many reasons why South Yorkshire businesses may be facing a skills shortage.

The return home of EU nationals since Brexit, a change in business focus due to the pandemic and the increasing digitisation of many businesses means that there are skills gaps in many areas and here employers are recognising the value of good quality apprentices.

The shortage of skills in health and social care has been widely publicised with new entrants needed in roles ranging from administration right through to engineers and maintenance staff as well as of course clinical and healthcare roles. There are some great opportunities for apprenticeships in this sector.

Local authorities in South Yorkshire are also seeking candidates for apprenticeship programmes offering Level 2 up to degree Level 7 qualifications. Many of the new roles being created will support the delivery of the green agenda, whether that be retrofitting homes to make them more thermally efficient or installing new greener sources of energy. There are numerous opportunities for apprentices to start their employment with one of our local councils with the potential for career progression in the future.

In addition, apprenticeships are also being seen as the answer to fill gaps in ‘new’ industries such as electric vehicles, green energy and AI automation.

According to the National Apprenticeship Service, around 96% of employers surveyed had experienced at least one benefit from employing an apprentice.

The survey also revealed:

  • 74% of employers said apprentices had improved their product
  • 78% of employers said apprentices had actually improved productivity
  • 85% of employers said apprentices had helped to develop skills for their organisation
  • 67% of employers said that employing apprentices had improved retention of staff
  • 65% of apprentices stay in companies way beyond completing their training
  • 73% of employers said employing apprentices had boosted staff morale.

Government research also shows that apprentices have increased future earning potential across the course of their career. This means that, if they progress on to an advanced apprenticeship and successfully complete it, they could earn around £117,000 more over their lifetime than those who don’t.

Benefits to young people/apprentices: A great time to be a digital apprentice!

A great example of an industry that has recognised the opportunities that apprentices can offer is digital. In South Yorkshire, companies such as Sumo Digital have created digital apprenticeships and mapped these out so young people can clearly see the direction their careers are taking towards an ultimate goal, ending up in a career with great progression opportunities. The Sumo Digital Academy took on its first cohort of apprenticeships last September and the company has high hopes for its entrants.

Research has shown that 10,000 new digital technology and creative sector employees will be needed by 2024 in South Yorkshire, which is equivalent to around half of the whole digital workforce. This means there are opportunities for people of all ages to embark on Digital Apprenticeships, equipping them and their businesses with vital skills for the future.

Benefits to young people/apprentices: An attractive way to earn while you learn

Many school leavers are now choosing higher level or degree apprenticeships as an alternative to full time university courses enabling them to be paid whilst they study and can lead directly to high value careers in specific industries.

The economic recovery we are now seeing following the pandemic, means that sectors such as advanced manufacturing and construction are recruiting again and sourcing good quality candidates for apprenticeships. Schools and colleges, through their pastoral care teams are helping young people to develop their confidence and to strive for apprenticeships that offer clear progression routes.

South Yorkshire is being recognised as a place that young people can progress. The training providers and support systems are in place here and the opportunities are good. This is being supported by our Strategic Economic Plan which has a simple vision, ‘…to grow an economy that works for everyone.’ … ‘ensuring 30,000 more people achieve higher level skills and that 9,000 fewer people in South Yorkshire remain unskilled.’

Much has been made of the widening skills gap between the north and south, with many seeing apprenticeships as being the key to enabling businesses to shape their destiny and return to growth.

Benefits to young people/apprentices: Skills for life

What is very clear is that Apprenticeships can deliver a step-change improvement in the skills people need for life and work. They can help people of all ages to progress into higher level vocational and technical skills which can make a real difference both to them and to their employers.”

For young people who are interested in doing an apprenticeship but who want to get a bit more experience in the workplace first, traineeships offer a good first step. Traineeships are available for young people aged 16-24 years.

Helen George concludes: “So as we head towards National Apprenticeship Week, it is worth reflecting on the contribution that apprentices make to South Yorkshire businesses.

Employing and undertaking apprenticeships has been more challenging during the pandemic, but there is plenty of support from South Yorkshire apprenticeship providers, through the SCR Training Provider Network and the Government to make the process as simple and successful as possible.”


Last Updated: 28/01/2022

Published In: Business and Growth, Skills and Employment