Can Apprenticeships Close the Skills Gap?

Posted by: Mia Lewis Post Date: 2nd November 2016

A skills shortage is a well-documented and often spoken about issue in the UK. Quite simply, the skillsets of today’s youth and the requirements of employers just aren’t matching up.

This could be for a variety of reasons – companies may be on the lookout for ‘job-ready’ employees who can hit the ground running, and aren’t willing to provide them with training in case they join their competitors. Also, the rise in popularity of degrees over vocational qualifications means that graduates are gaining plenty of theoretical knowledge, but have fewer practical workplace skills to make an immediate statement in their first roles.

Here are a few reasons why:

Supplying the right training

A survey of 868 HR professionals across the UK from CIPD has outlined that the three top skills that employers look for in young recruits: communication (64%), teamwork (60%) and confidence (45%). These skills can be difficult to pick up through years of academia, but can be instilled in your apprentices with the right experiences and relevant training.

Walking into a new workplace can be an intimidating experience for any young individual, so it’s understandable that they will not immediately have these three most sought-after skills. However, think of an apprentice as an open mind, who won’t come with a host of old habits that need to be worked out of them. Many employers have spoken of the adaptability of apprentices to mould into the workplace, and learn quickly from the environment around them. With effective training methods, apprentices can increase in both knowledge and confidence in their chosen field in no time.

The Potential of new Apprenticeship Standards

There is no doubt of the huge potential for employers to help close the gap with new apprenticeship standards. These apprenticeship standards will be made to suit the needs of both businesses and the apprentices, giving learners appropriate background knowledge of how a business works, and how their role fits into the overall needs of the business. By gaining a real industry insight with qualifications made by the employers themselves, apprentices will attain the skills they need to flourish within an evolving business environment.

The Apprenticeship Levy is an upcoming tax that will affect UK businesses in both private and public sectors with an annual wage bill of over £3 million. The levy is designed to fund 3 million places for apprentices within the UK, and encourage the most influential businesses to bring apprentices through as the next generation at their business. The levy has true potential for employers to embrace and invest in apprenticeship their young individuals, ensuring apprentices will gain all the training they need to stay loyal to their cause.

Learning from our neighbours

The UK is clearly lagging behind our neighbours when it comes to the number of young people taking up vocational schemes. Germany have endorsed an apprenticeship system to be admired – a well-functioning dual education system that combines practical experience with schooling from a young age, making opportunities for young people more accessible the moment they leave school.

15% of Germany’s young people are already in workplace apprenticeships, compared to our own 2%. However, a recent survey from the McKinsey Centre for Government found that Germany has the lowest percentage – out of all large Eurozone economies – of employers who think a lack of skills is a major problem for their company.


Perhaps the crux of the issue lies in awareness for school leavers to see the options that are available to them. Only 14.5% of apprentices admit that government information made them aware of apprenticeship programmes, and 42.2% found the opportunity they wanted through their own research.

A tandem effort between government, businesses, and providers such as Babington can help fit well-skilled and motivated apprentices with suited employers. We can make a collective effort to streamline the apprenticeship schemes, and help close the skills gap for businesses and learners alike.

Find out how we can assist you in sourcing quality apprenticeship candidates for your business

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