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The Apprenticeship Levy to help uncover the best talent

When the new Apprenticeship Levy comes into force on 6th April, employers with a payroll bill of more than £3m will be expected to contribute towards accredited schemes. But what does it mean for recruiters? James Taylor (pictured), managing director at Macildowie, believes it paves the way for consultants to uncover the best talent.

The route to employment is becoming more diverse all the time and this is partly down to modern apprenticeships. Across a growing range of sectors, employers are seeing the benefits of taking on a school or college leaver at the beginning of their career, where they learn about their chosen industry and skills ‘on the job’.

Certainly from a recruiter’s perspective, our drive to discover the most promising candidates never stops – and today they are not necessarily university-educated. With tuition fees the highest they have ever been, some are opting for on-the-job training, real-life experience and, perhaps most importantly, a wage.

Through the Apprenticeship Levy, the government is hoping to deliver three million opportunities by 2020. Employers with a payroll bill of more than £3m per year must pay 0.5% of this towards the levy, but they receive a total of £15,000 to offset it. In return, there are a number of perks, including additional training for current staff and apprentices and a 10% top up on levy contributions from the government.

The levy is being supported by new apprenticeship standards, so there will be more qualifications available. Ranging from GCSEs to Masters, and developed in partnership with businesses, there are now more potential ways for young people to climb the career ladder, practise valuable skills and for employers to have their pick of the crop.

These reforms are welcome because they will create new and exciting opportunities in the recruitment sector – it is important to note that not all apprentices go on to work at the same business once they have completed the training. They may, for example, find a better-paid position elsewhere or simply want to experience a different working environment. In some cases, the company is not able to offer a permanent job role at that time.

Recruitment consultants should seize the chance to work with someone who has successfully undertaken an apprenticeship and now wants to take their next steps. For their client, a candidate who has achieved the equivalent of a post-graduate qualification while gaining real work experience, could prove to be a very attractive choice.

Over the coming years, we can expect to see businesses setting out clearer strategies for apprenticeships, including how they will nurture talent and enable progression. One of the biggest challenges for employers will be retaining their best apprentices once they are trained up and possibly outperforming more senior colleagues. It is important that a performance pathway is outlined to encourage staff satisfaction and improve retention levels. The digital apprenticeship service is already open for businesses to register online and many are already looking at how they can access the training and support available to ensure they get the most out of it.

The government’s ambitious target of creating three million opportunities for young people signals that it is serious about plugging the skills shortages across different sectors. Our experience suggests that businesses want to see the levy used to train existing staff but also to attract and retain future talent. The best workers will naturally look for new opportunities – and recruiters should be poised to help them.

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