Embedding tech apprenticeships into SME workforce plans

Employer, Insights

| Reading time - 5 mins

There’s one common goal for SMEs, and that’s to grow a thriving business. Having the right people with the right skills on-board is key to achieving successful growth, which is why most small businesses create a workforce plan.

Whether it’s a formal strategy or a discussion amongst management, a workforce plan helps businesses understand where they need to upskill or recruit. It’s how 31% of SMEs identified they have a digital skills shortage in their tech teams, leading them to look for new hiring and training solutions.

To tackle their digital skills gaps, many employers are turning to digital apprenticeships as part of their long-term workforce strategy.

How are apprenticeships used in workforce planning?

On-the-job training for priority roles

An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme that develops employees’ skills and knowledge on-the-job. Based on workforce requirements, businesses can ensure they have the right people in the right roles by hiring a new employee onto a digital apprenticeship.

Launching a vacancy mapped to an apprenticeship provides an enticing offer for tech talent who are attracted to the development opportunity. Intequal work with Atlas Hotels who identified the need for freeing up time in their data department. They set out to hire a new data analyst and with Intequal’s support aligned the vacancy to a Level 4 Data Analyst apprenticeship.

With an on-the-job delivery model, digital apprenticeships allow learners to apply their new knowledge instantly. As a result, Atlas Hotels’ recruited apprentice was able to use their technical skills to automate data cleansing and reporting and simplify existing processes, doubling the availability of data across different departments. According to Lee Clark, Head of Data and Analytics at Atlas Hotels, they “would have never found or recruited a colleague with the apprentice’s attitude or raw skillset without the enticement of completing an apprenticeship.”

Alternatively, if upskilling is identified as a business need, employers can sign up existing team members to develop specialist skills. This could look like enrolling an experienced marketer onto a Digital Marketing apprenticeship to learn new digital skills; something Europcar Mobility Group did to upskill their marketing manager who became responsible for digital channels when they started managing a new team. Focusing on priority areas for the business, the apprentice gained skills in coding, email and CRM marketing; achieving an additional £100,000 incremental revenue and targeting 250,000 accounts through B2B communications.

Apprenticeships help build a talent pipeline

Apprenticeships provide more than just on-the-job training – they’re an excellent tool for building a tech talent pipeline, ensuring workforces of today and tomorrow are equipped with future-ready technical skills. Promoting from a home-grown pool of talent and creating future leaders are two ways that employers utilise apprenticeships in their long-term workforce plans.

Given that 92% of Intequal’s apprentices stay with their employer following programme completion, apprenticeships are an important part of businesses’ retention strategies and career pathways. Create IT, a managed IT solutions provider, retain their newly qualified apprentices by moving them into permanent roles and recruiting new apprentices to backfill the entry-level roll. This plays an important part in their succession planning and provides more opportunities to recruit local junior talent.

Through workforce planning, businesses start to anticipate the technical skills that their future leaders will need. Apprenticeships equip team members with up-to-date skills and knowledge that drives career progression. Telent, a telecoms and technology provider, report apprentices they recruited only a few years ago are now leading their own teams, saying “this accelerated career progression has been credited to the knowledge, skills and behaviours that apprentices have developed while on programme with Intequal.”

How to effectively run apprenticeships for workforce success

From critical technical skills training to building a talent pipeline of future leaders, there are many reasons why apprenticeships are becoming an integral part of workforce plans for small businesses. To experience these benefits and make a true impact, apprenticeships need to be efficiently setup and effectively managed.

An apprenticeship training provider can manage many elements of apprenticeship setup. Once the right digital or IT apprenticeship programme has been aligned to the role or vacancy, a training provider can begin the full apprentice recruitment service. Alternatively, if enrolling existing staff, they can help identify what criteria you may look for before signing up an employee to ensure you get the right people on the right programme. In the meantime, they’ll support with accessing apprenticeship funding, setting up an onboarding process and preparing the apprentice for their upcoming training.

Having a mentor to support the apprentice during their programme is a key element of success. We understand most small businesses may not have the people or time capacity to support an apprentice, which is why Intequal provide every learner with a Pathway Planner; an additional point of contact to the Technical Trainer to coach and mentor in both personal and professional development. Not only does this help managers balance apprenticeship training with workplace activity, but importantly helps the learner stay on track and engaged, a key contributor to Intequal's 98.5% apprentice pass rate.

Set up for long-term success with apprenticeships

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