A widening skills gap is often cited as one of the biggest challenges to face the merchanting industry, with many young people opting to pursue college or university rather than finding a career and ‘working their way up.’ PBM’s Assistant Editor Abbie Smith takes a look at how offering high quality apprenticeship schemes can help to improve your business.
When it comes to choosing a career, it is probably not a secret to say that builders’ merchant is not necessarily the job role at the forefront of young adult’s minds. However, through engaging and insightful apprenticeship schemes, merchants are able to help the younger population discover an exciting career path — whilst also benefitting their own business for good measure.
Why should I offer an apprenticeship scheme?
Highly trained, personable staff with great product knowledge and an understanding of the industry can be very difficult to come by. An apprentice in your company offers an opportunity to train new staff in a way that promotes the specific skillset that a merchant requires, and benefit from the fresh insight of the next generation of merchants.
Indeed, according to the BMF, 86% of apprentices who are offered a permanent role after their apprenticeship continue to work within that company, directly applying their newfound knowledge and experience. In fact, an apprenticeship scheme is likely to drastically increase staff retention, as people are more likely to remain loyal to an employer that is willing to invest time, money and effort into the career progression of its staff.
Even if a new starter is not what you are looking for, an apprenticeship scheme is a great way to offer career development to staff that are already on the books, allowing them to train and develop their skills whilst still working.
According to Skills Training UK, 77% of employers agreed that taking on apprentices helped to make their organisations more competitive, and more than eight out of 10 customers prefer to buy from companies which employ apprentices.
Can I afford to take on an apprentice?
Whether your company is large or small, the Government has taken steps to ensure that offering work-based training does not put a financial burden on the firm itself.
Employers in the UK with a wage bill of more than £3m per annum will be charged an Apprenticeship Levy of 0.5% of their full UK payroll. This fund enters your Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) online account and must be used within 24 months, or the funds expire.
As a levy payer the Government will also top up your digital account by 10%. There is also a £1,000 incentive for recruiting a 16-18 year-old Apprentice or a 19-24 year-old Apprentice with additional learning needs or an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.
Furthermore, SMEs who do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy can co-fund their apprenticeship training, paying 5% (with the rest paid for by the Government). This is also managed through the DAS online account.
For firms with less than 50 employees, the Government is meeting the full cost of Apprenticeship training for those aged 18 and under. For employees aged over 19 they will pay for 95% of Apprenticeships training, with the employer co-investing 5%.
The process for applying for this funding can be complicated, but that does not mean you should not take advantage of the funding available. Help can be found through the Government website or companies such as Skills Training UK, whilst the BMF offers a range of guidance and assistance (see panel).
How can the BMF Apprenticeship Plus help?
The BMF’s accredited Apprenticeship Training Academy (ATA) acts as the formal employer of the apprentices who are placed with member companies. This removes potential administrative hurdles making it easy for BMF members to take on an apprentice in any job role. This is a great option for many merchants looking to employ entry level staff.
Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director, said: “BMF Apprenticeship Plus will enhance the appeal of merchanting as a career option. Young people entering the industry using this route are supported by a full employment contract and apprenticeship agreement that gives them the opportunity to train and be recognised as proficient across the range of skills that our members need, as well as providing increased security for the duration of their apprenticeship.”
For larger companies, a larger Levy Management service will source and contract the training provider and negotiate the cost of apprenticeship training as well as the cost of end point assessments.
To find out more about BMF Apprenticeship Plus contact Paige.Godsell@bmf.org.uk or on 02476 854980.