Thanks to Apple, and the advent of the smartphone, we have added another new entry to the lexicon over the past couple of years – the “app”. The must turn to page in the Sunday supplements is now “the best 20 apps for navigating your way through three different nearby restaurants for your three-course organic lunch”.
In the part of the world I inhabit, the most effective app for future-proofing the performance of your company could well be not an application for your smartphone but an apprentice for your organisation.
As is often the case, a number of things are coinciding to make apprenticeships an attractive option for both employer and new employees.
Firstly, apprenticeships are one of the flagship initiatives of the coalition government. The previous government started a move towards them and this has been built upon by this administration as attention is transferred away from Train to Gain and into apprenticeships.
The advent of the National Apprenticeship Service and the clear focusing of Sector Skills Councils to deliver increased numbers of apprentices is further testimony to this.
Research has shown that, in a steady-state situation, apprenticeships are good news for employees in that a person who has completed a Level 3 apprenticeship will earn more than £100,000 extra in their working lives, than somebody who has only reached Level 2.
Similarly, employers can normally expect to recoup their investment in apprentices within two to three years.
Previous initiatives such as Train to Gain have been widely criticised because they include considerable levels of “deadweight” – jargon for the public purse funding training that would have been done anyway by large companies.
Public funding of training is going to be increasingly limited to and focused on addressing market failures. In the logistics sector, the very limited use of apprentices can be deemed to be a market failure as, in most measures of apprentice take-up, logistics falls below 50 per cent of the all-sector average.
Often, employers are unwilling to take the risk of committing to taking on an apprentice, even though they could, after a couple of years end up with a highly trained and loyal employee who knows their business inside out. A number of interesting initiatives are emerging to overcome this reluctance, focused on Group Training Associations (GTAs) and Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs).
Under these innovative schemes, the apprentice is actually employed by the ATA while training and is, in effect, rented out to the employer for four days a week for the duration of the programme.
One such scheme is centred on Corby and involves a number of schools, the Logistics Academy East Midlands, Northamptonshire Enterprise and an increasing number of employers in and around the town.
This gives schoolchildren in the area a real chance to develop a career with local companies – a win/win situation if ever I saw one.
Another factor driving apprenticeships is the increased focus on vocational training as entry to higher education becomes more difficult. At the time of writing, the 2010 A-level results are due and commentators expect there to be some 3,500 students with A-grade A-levels unable to find a university place. A compelling logistics apprenticeship offer, with clear career development opportunities may well be of interest to these people.
Professional institutes are reporting considerable increases in the numbers of members and a good route into a profession is often through apprenticeships.
At Skills for Logistics we are working with major employers, trade bodies and professional institutes to develop a logistics apprenticeship to sit alongside the more traditional driving, warehousing and admin programmes to provide a series of pathways, based on the professional development stairway.
This will give clear career opportunities through the various operative grades and junior/middle management right up to senior operational management, all through apprenticeships and similar programmes.
The programmes are there, the funding is there, especially for the under 19 age group. All that is missing is the demand found in other parts of industry. As with all apps, maybe when people are aware of the benefits, it will become a no-brainer.