Once a year, apprenticeships find themselves in the spotlight for National Apprenticeship Week (5th-11th February 2024). This year the theme is ‘Skills for Life’ – a knowing nod to apprenticeships’ unique ability to empower young people with skills and knowledge that set them up for a rewarding career, while at the same time equipping businesses with a talented, future-proof workforce. 

"Just 5% of degree-level apprenticeships currently go to disadvantaged young people, who are also twice as likely to be unemployed than their similarly qualified but better-off peers."

Here at Visionpath, we think a lot about apprenticeships all year round. We know first-hand the amazing benefits of hiring apprentices, because we’ve been helping businesses inspire, engage and hire school-leavers for over a decade. But did you know just 5% of degree-level apprenticeships currently go to disadvantaged young people? Meanwhile, those from low-income backgrounds are twice as likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) than their similarly qualified but better-off peers. 

Together, we can change that. At Visionpath we believe a young person’s background shouldn’t limit their potential, and we know that right now businesses are missing out on a wealth of untapped talent. That’s why we help businesses – of any size, in any industry – to start welcoming socially diverse school-leavers into their workforce. Because we want to see social diversity embedded in every business. 

Never hired apprentices? Here are three reasons why it could be great for your business.

1. Discover untapped talent

There's so much talent with enormous potential out there, if you know where to look. As an employer, apprenticeships offer you an opportunity to connect with that and bring new energy into your business.

By intentionally reaching out to socially diverse young people through your apprenticeship programme, you can grow your talent pool by engaging with candidates you (and your competitors) may have previously overlooked – giving you richer pickings and a competitive edge. You’ll also be nurturing a team with a diverse range of experiences and perspectives who can help you better understand and represent your customers and communities – leading to greater customer loyalty and brand awareness.

"There's so much talent with enormous potential out there, if you know where to look."

2. Shape talent to your business

Offering a young person the first step on their career journey means taking them on at grassroots level, which might sound like a challenge. But, in fact, it gives you the opportunity to take new hires on a journey of growth and development, allowing you to shape their skills and experience to the needs of your business. Plus, having never worked for another business, they’ll bring with them a fresh perspective – rather than bad habits or biases!

Hiring an apprentice comes with the added bonus of a built-in development pathway. An apprenticeship has two elements: the job itself, which you create and manage, and the qualification from an accredited body that the apprentice works towards alongside it. If you’re smart about mapping the role you want to fill with a high-quality, relevant qualification standard (read our tips for that here), the apprenticeship training programme gives you a framework for young talent that you wouldn’t get if you were hiring a graduate for a standard entry-level position, for example.

Top tip: If you're an Apprenticeship Levy-paying business, it makes sense to reinvest your contributions into your own business by hiring promising young talent. If you’re a small or medium business that doesn't pay the Apprenticeship Levy, you could get a subsidy of up to 100% of the training costs for your apprentice. What’s not to like?

3. Increase loyalty and retention

Investing in and developing young talent from the ground up builds loyalty, which leads to improved retention – offering tangible ROI by saving you money on rehiring and retraining later on. Plus, creating apprenticeship pathways is great for your employer brand because it encourages young people to see your business as a place where they can start their career and thrive. With companies with a positive employer brand getting up to twice as many applications and reducing turnover by 28%, that’s not to be sniffed at.

Plus, if you’re a bigger business thinking about your ESG strategy, you might find your focus is on environmental factors, while social considerations lack depth. Apprenticeships geared towards socially diverse young people offer the opportunity to align your social objectives with your business-critical talent needs by embedding core values around equity, diversity and inclusion in your early careers strategy.

"Apprenticeships geared towards socially diverse young people offer the opportunity to align your social objectives with your business-critical talent needs"

With over a decade of experience in hiring apprentices – and lived experience that means we truly understand the importance of social equality – Visionpath is the ideal partner to guide you through the apprentice-hiring process.

Whatever your business size or industry, we can help you inspire, engage and hire socially diverse school-leavers. Our programmes have won awards like Best Apprenticeship Development Programme at the 2022 Institute of Student Employer Awards, and helped clients secure a spot in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. 

From end-to-end solutions to targeted support on a specific challenge, at Visionpath we tailor our approach to your unique needs. Get in touch to find out how we can help your business move the dial on social diversity.

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