Apprenticeships ‘vital’ for tackling future workplace challenges

A survey of members of The 5% Club has found that less than 2% of businesses are fully confident their employees are well placed to take advantage of the rising use of new technology.

However, 78% of businesses surveyed strongly believe that earn and learn training opportunities, including apprenticeship schemes, can help address future changes in the workplace, and are critical for UK businesses if they are to successfully compete in a global market.

Apprenticeships ‘vital’ for tackling future workplace challenges

The 5% Club, an employer-led movement which includes Skanska UK Plc and Kier Group, works to create “earn and learn” skills training opportunities across the UK by driving the recruitment of apprentices, sponsored students and graduates.

An ageing workforce, a continuing skills gap across sectors and the rising use of new technology such as Artificial Intelligence, are all challenges which businesses can positively tackle by providing employees with the right on-the-job training and relevant skills, according to The 5% Club.

The training and skills campaign group is an employer-member organisation which encourages employers to create as many earn and learn opportunities as possible, and has more than 340 members representing businesses across many sectors and sizes.

In the survey to mark The 5% Club’s 5th birthday this month, employer-members were asked for their opinion on a number of important challenges facing their sector and the role of earn and learn training:

  • All businesses surveyed agreed that on-the-job training programmes can help companies prepare for the future by providing relevant skills, with 78% strongly agreeing;
  • 91% argue that earn and learn training can significantly help to address the continuing skills gap crisis;
  • 67% stated that earn and learn training, such as apprenticeships, is critical for upskilling an ageing workforce;
  • 54% believe that earn and learn training can help businesses embed and embrace digitalisation and new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.

Lady Cobham CBE, director general, The 5% Club, said: “Over the next few years, businesses will face unprecedented change. The increasing use of Artificial Intelligence, data insight and other technological advances will become the expected norm for businesses in order to thrive and as such, we need to prepare our workforces accordingly. At the same time, we will see a growing, ageing population, working for longer and requiring their skills to be updated more regularly, either in existing jobs or when developing their careers. Underpinning this, is the ongoing skills crisis across sectors.

“Work-based training opportunities can provide a significant part of the solution, offering employers the chance to drive new skills and training in line with how their business model and order pipeline will look in the next five to ten years. Of course, it isn’t just about employers. Further Education providers also need to play their part by providing courses which are in line with the skills of the future. Through work-based training, we are not only preparing our employees of all ages for the jobs of the future, but also driving economic growth by ensuring our businesses are ready, agile and equipped with the right skills to operate efficiently and productively for the coming years.”

Skanska UK Plc and Kier Group are both active members of The 5% Club who participated in its 5th birthday survey, and were positive about the potential of earn and learn programmes to address the issues facing today’s businesses.

Skanska joined The 5% Club in 2015, shortly after setting up its emerging talent team.  The company has over 5,000 employees and currently over 200 apprentices.

Emerging talent manager, Martyn Scott, said: “Our industry has challenges around an ageing workforce, skills shortages in industry and also diversity and inclusion. On top of that the digital revolution is coming in to the industry and we feel we can move the needle on all of this using earn and learn initiatives.

“We recruit apprentices from colleges and schools, and we also have older apprentices, and programmes for NEETs (‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’) and care leavers. The roles we offer range across the board from quantity surveying to HR, and construction management to digital engineering.

“In a fast-moving environment, Skanska wants to be able to meet the future needs of its clients and we are starting to build in that capability now. Apprenticeships are helping us prepare to build our workforce of the future, while creating opportunities for people who may not otherwise have a gateway into the industry.”

Kier has been running earn and learn schemes for many years, and currently has close to 900 individuals on structured programmes to support their development. The group has over 50 different types of apprenticeships on offer, including digital construction, business administration and quantity surveying that covers a range of development opportunities from entry level to degree programmes.

Katie Nightingale, Kier Group early careers manager, added: “Our industry is fascinating and rewarding and we must act now to attract more talented individuals to consider a role within the built environment. As our workforce evolves, we have a continuous focus on strategic workforce planning to ensure we have a vast array of programmes, including earn and learn opportunities, that creates pathways for all.

“People are the life blood to the built environment and we are committed to investing in the workforce of tomorrow. Our approach is clear, we do not see recruiting new talent as an HR initiative, but a staple part of the group’s sustainable business growth strategy.

“We have been an active member of The 5% Club from the beginning and we have found it invaluable to share best practice with other employers across industry. Working collaboratively is the only way we can tackle the challenges facing our industry, attract talented individuals and future-proof the skills needed in our sector.”

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