Companies in Sheffield have a great opportunity to support apprenticeships to help drive economic growth in our city. There are many fantastic and inspirational young people out there craving an opportunity to get their first foot on the employment ladder. Sadly many of them are facing a closed door, as there is a real lack of apprenticeships. Sheffield has lost a lot of apprenticeship schemes, mainly as a result of companies cutting costs. But for me, taking on apprentices is a sensible investment in the future of a business.
The business community is blessed with great innovation. So we now need to nurture and support apprenticeships because it will be part of the lifeblood for the return of economic strength. The starting point should be for Government to offer tax and NI breaks that can encourage medium and large business to take the first steps in taking on young people. And this should not just be as an excuse for cheap labour but offer hands on experience including a mentoring programme where young people can gain life long experience. From the apprentice’s point of view, hands on learning enables them to understand a company’s culture and business goals. The pay back is that this helps to create commitment and loyalty on all sides.
Many businesses in Sheffield have an ageing workforce that, by definition, will be eroded over time. Even at IFM, our senior management team are all in their late 40s plus so we are fully aware of the need to recruit and bring on our younger staff. So it’s crucial that we start to encourage the apprenticeship route, which can sustain, develop and grow our business. Taking on an apprentice does require investment but most of this is in terms of time to offer a proper, well thought out training programme.There’s no greater risk to a company than eroding your skills base at a time when you’re in an increasingly competitive market and seeking to grow your business. There must be real commitment to mentoring and developing the raw talent.
So as part of our business plans, let’s all start to think seriously about including apprenticeships as an integral part of our strategy. At the same time we need to mobilise support among businesses by promoting the value and image of how apprenticeships are making a real impact. Crucially we need to encourage more organisations to offer meaningful apprenticeships.
It’s an old cliché but staff are the greatest asset to business. So let’s ensure we have the talented and skilled staff of the future by supporting our young people through the apprenticeship route.