Investment in apprenticeships has remained resilient in the face of the pandemic, according to a new report.
In-Comm Training’s third annual training barometer revealed 67% of companies had taken on apprentices during the last 12 months, whilst a staggering 97% kept all their learners on despite the pressures of COVID-19.
The confidence extends into the future, with 70% committing to taking on an apprentice over the next year (up from 47% in 2021), with 69% giving employees the opportunity to progress learning all the way to an HNC or Degree.
There were, however, some concerns in the report, which featured 105 companies from aerospace, automotive, distribution, general engineering and professional services.
The impact of the pandemic had resulted in nearly a third of companies cutting back on their training spend and barriers to embarking down the vocational route continue to be dominated by a lack of in-house infrastructure and understanding of all the different apprenticeship standards currently out there.
“These results show a massive shift change from last year with companies reaffirming their commitment to investing in vocational learning, underlining the major strides apprenticeships have made over the last few years and the value management teams place in them,” explained Gareth Jones, managing director of In-Comm Training. “Despite all of the pressures, the turmoil and the restrictions, bosses believed it was vital to retain existing learners and, importantly, continue to invest in new ones as they didn’t want to be hit with a skills gap when the recovery started.”
He continued: “This is none more pertinent than in engineering, where there is a lack of talent and the people that are out there are demanding extortionate wages. Growing your own is the only sustainable way of getting around this situation and those that held their nerve during the pandemic have come out of it better.
“The key barrier for training is releasing staff from core activities (49%), as many of them were focused on continuous improvement activities during the downturn, in order to improve processes/quality, implement automation and reduce waste.
“The second biggest challenge was identifying the right course for what the business needs (19%), proving that, as a sector, we need to make things simpler.”
Growing cost of inflation is firmly on the mind of many management teams, with 58% citing it as a significant barrier to attracting and retaining staff, an issue that could potentially get worse before it gets better with employees also looking for flexible working patterns and training and development.
The final major concern employers have is a ‘skills drain’ that comes from older workers retiring. 70% of businesses are concerned about the impact on staff and their ability to meet the requirements of their customers.