Complicated scheme sells apprentices – and employers – short

  15 January 2018

Apprentice technician

The theme of #NAW2018 – National Apprenticeship Week – is showcasing how apprenticeships work and for retailers thinking about taking apprentices on, why not check out the online map about local events taking place?

One retailer known for their quality of training is Lookers, and last year it took on over 160 apprentices, receiving lots of positive publicity, including for encouraging more girls to consider technician roles as a career.

Their apprenticeship programme is also no doubt a part of why Lookers was the only UK dealership to be one of the UK’s best employers to work for in the Chartered Management Institute/Glassdoor Top 20 listing (Lookers is at number 7).

There are growing numbers of students who are interested in becoming an apprentice, with the view that it is a ‘second best’ option fading. There is now a real argument that apprenticeships are a more attractive over the debt acquired from going to university.

Unfortunately, for smaller firms in particular, that may have a limited HR function, the apprenticeship process can appear complex and bureaucratic.

At the end of last year, the number of apprenticeships being taken on actually slumped by 59%, a serious and worrying trend, and with a number of factors being blamed including rules changes introduced last April. This includes the new apprenticeship levy and the fact that apprentices must spend a day away from the workplace per week to access training.

The levy only impacts on large employers who have a wage bill of more than £3 million, with the funds raised through this being used to fund the training of new recruits. But, it has caused a great deal of confusion as to how they spend the money and how it is distributed if they have a group structure. Smaller employers, however, have to pay 10% towards apprenticeship costs, with apprentices required to spend a day away from the workplace being trained – this means both cost and a lack of flexibility.

The government has an ambitious target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 but going by plummeting take up, this may be difficult to achieve.

Let’s hope National Apprenticeship Week does get the message out that there are still many positives in offering great training and opportunities. Lookers has shown what can be achieved and needs to be joined by more, not less, auto retailers.

Rachel Gordon


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