The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) says that not enough employers understand the financial benefits of apprenticeships.

The body wants the government’s National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to create a new marketing campaign that emphasises why businesses cannot afford to not invest in apprenticeships.

Paul Warner, AELP’s director of employment and skills, said: “To help meet demand from young people, we want to see a renewed marketing push by the government’s National Apprenticeship Service to target the thousands of employers who have never employed an apprentice and explain why it makes sound business sense for them to do so.”

The association, which represents the training organisations that produce 75% of apprentices in England, is urging NAS to work with providers and persuade more businesses that apprenticeships are an important investment for the future.

AELP says that with one in five young people unable to find work at the moment, the current situation is limiting the number of students that are being offered places once they leave school.

Paul Warner added: “2011 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for training providers in trying to encourage employers to take on more young people as apprentices.

“Therefore we have to be careful not to raise unrealistic expectations among young people who are receiving their GCSE results this week that an apprenticeship place is automatically there for them if they want it.”

AELP has welcomed the government’s investment in apprenticeships, but is concerned with the latest figures that show starts for people over 25 (121,000 in the first 9 months of 2010/2011) outstripping those between 16-18 (102,900) and 19-24 (102,800).

The association added that the Work Programme’s chances of success, which were criticised earlier this week by the Social Market Foundation, would be boosted if the currently separate welfare-to-work agenda and the apprenticeship-focused skills agenda were merged into a single system of provision.

They concluded that sustainable employment in Britain could only be achieved by producing joined-up policy similar to those being rolled out by AELP members.


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  1. Jon McKnight

    I couldn’t agree more with Paul Warner – other than to point out that learning providers, too, have their part to play in making employers aware of the business benefits of apprenticeships.

    Telling employers how good you are is one thing, but showing them is quite another. In my experience, learning providers who are superb at delivering apprenticeships aren’t necessarily good at communicating their achievements to employers in a way that will appeal to them.

    For instance, FE colleges often produce case studies that are full of educationspeak, read as if they’ve been compiled as the result of a tick-box eercise (and might well have been), and appear to have been written so cautiously that while they please the powers-that-be at the college, they certainly don’t appeal to the people they’re supposed to be convincing – ie, the employers.

    That isn’t because the people in the colleges’ communications departments can’t write stories for general consumption, but because they tend to write stories that will satisfy the bureaucracy they work for.

    The result, though, is often a turn-off for employers who aren’t interested in a long list of the college’s credentials and achievements, but do want to know precisely why apprenticeships would be good for their business.

    For that reason, I’ve been commissioned to write more than 150 case studies so far – mostly about apprenticeships – by the Association of Colleges and the 157 Group.

    I’ve never worked in a college and don’t have a teaching qualification – but I do know how to write in a convincing way, having been a journalist or writer for more than 31 years.

    To the occasional but only initial horror of institutionalised college PR people, I refuse to include any self-promotional quotes from the college or learning provider in the case study. Instead, I ensure that all of the praise for the college’s work comes from independent third parties who don’t have to be nice if they don’t want to – ie, the employers, and the apprentices themselves.

    I ask employers what benefits their businesses have gained from having apprentices (perhaps easier recruitment or staff retention) and how helpful the learning provider has been in making things happen.

    The result is a quote-heavy, readable piece of writing that grabs people’s attention right from the first sentence and sustains it until the end.

    That’s what learning providers need to be doing – whether they find the same level of initiative as the AoC and the 157 Group and commission case studies themselves, or lobby the NAS to provide some cash to promote its raison d’etre.

    It costs just as much to produce a Principal-pleasing case study that employers will roll their eyes at as it does to produce one that is utterly convincing, shows the college in a highly positve light, and does the job it’s intended to – ie, to convince employers to pick up the phone and ask the learning provider about apprenticeships.

    I’m happy to discuss with anyone who wants to know more via