Could industry newcomers help safeguard you from the skills gap?

stock-photo-business-education-and-corpo-2590309 (1)-320620-edited.pngThe word apprenticeship may conjure up images of blacksmiths being trained to craft hammers, or masons learning to build cathedrals centuries ago; the practice, however, is very much alive in the modern workplace.

Today, apprenticeship programs are offered in industries ranging from health care to computer programming; and a number of countries have increased their investment in apprenticeship initiatives in recent years.

In 2017, England implemented a new apprenticeship policy, which gives employers more control over designing apprenticeship training.

The U.S., since 2014, has added more than 150,000 new apprenticeships — its largest increase in nearly a decade, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. More may be on the way: In June, the current U.S. president signed an executive order that could potentially significantly expand the government’s current apprenticeship efforts.

How to Set Up an Apprenticeship

Employers can reap several benefits from offering an apprenticeship. The average retention rate for apprentices who complete their program, for example, is extremely high — 91 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.

Apprenticeships can also help companies prevent skills gaps — a problem that’s costing U.K. businesses £2 billion a year in recruitment, salary and temporary staffing costs, according to research from The Open University.

Apprenticeship initiatives, however, like many programs, often involve a cost — so it’s important to know what format, positions and other elements will work best before launching one.

If your organization is thinking about starting an apprenticeship program, consider incorporating the following components to get the most out of your investment:

4-12-16_acp.jpgOriginal content

A report from the Institute for Public Policy research expressed concerns about changes being made to England’s apprenticeship training system, including the possibility employers might use repurposed staff training materials to teach apprentices skills. Instruction needs to be uniquely focused on a newcomer’s perspective to a position; education that was created for an internal skills review or cross-training exercise for existing employees most likely won’t provide the depth of knowledge an apprentice would need to someday fully assume a role.

A program partner

Collaboration with industry associations, labor organizations and other groups can help employers identify what resources they need to start an apprenticeship program and what structure it should have, according to a recommendation from the Department of Labor. External groups may also be able to help reduce the amount of internal manpower a company needs to create the program.

Help finding candidates

U.K. Department for Education research found approximately two-thirds of employers recruit at least some of their apprenticeship applicants externally; less than a third provide apprenticeship training to existing staff. (A small amount, 6 percent, provide apprenticeship initiatives that involve both.)

If you’re focusing on finding people who are brand new to the industry, your tried-and-true recruiting methods may not prove as effective. Talking with recruiters, educational institutions and other organizations may help you uncover new applicant sources.

Training opportunities don’t have to be limited to novices; current employees who aren’t in a program can also benefit from company-provided skills and professional development instruction.

Get additional ideas in our blog posts on what types of employee training programs you may want to consider, building a basic mentoring program, skills training companies can afford on any budget and a three-step solution to eliminate skills shortages using reverse mentoring.