Although it's difficult to clearly pinpoint who said it first, the phrase 'nation of shopkeepers' is a term most of us are familiar with. First used to describe the UK economy around 1794, the phrase made reference to the UK being a commercial power, built on the day-to-day running of small and large businesses prior to the era of industrialisation.

Has much changed since then? In these uncertain times of Brexit and post-global financial crisis, how would we, as a public, choose to have the UK described in conversations around the world?

Let's look at some of the facts. The present-day UK is home to:

  • the world's largest financial centre,
  • the second-largest national aerospace industry
  • the tenth-largest pharmaceutical industry in the world.

But if we had the opportunity to choose what the UK is known for now, as far as we're concerned at the Enginuity Group, we would say the UK is built on apprenticeships. Would you agree?

From their medieval origins to their present-day format, the concept of on-the-job training and development in the form of an apprenticeship has gone through many changes over time. They remain a tried and tested method of upskilling future industry leaders and discovering new talent at a grassroots level. Over the last 2 years since the introduction of the levy system, as with the birth of anything new, there has been a focussed time of discovery as we gain more knowledge and in-depth understanding of the role we play in the new apprenticeship story.

As with any story, there are conflicts and resolutions. The ongoing narrative of the new apprenticeship framework has been no different.

Let's take a look in summary:

  • The Department for Education stats reveal 29,100 apprenticeship starts for the month of January 2019 (An increase of 15% on January 2018 figures and down 21% on the same month in 2017)
  • 10% increase in the number of reported apprenticeship starts between August 2018 and January 2019. Of the 225,800 starts, Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Anne Milton said: "I'm delighted that thousands of employers large and small are now embracing the huge benefits apprenticeships are bringing to their business and offering people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to progress."
  • From April 2019, 2 years since the introduction of the levy, UK Chancellor for the Exchequer, Philip Hammond announced that employers would indeed be given the go-ahead to transfer up to 25% of their apprenticeship levy entitlement to another organisation in their native supply chain.
  • Good news for small businesses - as of 1st April 2019, the 10% fee they were initially charged when taking on apprentices has been halved. Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed the commencement date as part of his Spring Statement in March 2019: "From April 1st employers will see the co-investment rate they pay cut by half from 10% to 5%, at the same time as levy-paying employers are able to share more levy funds across their supply chains, with the maximum amount rising from 10% to 25%."

In this design and development phase of the apprenticeship story, post levy introduction, we are still learning a great deal as we implement various changes. Knowing that a modern approach to apprenticeships is facilitating greater opportunities to counteract the growing skills gap has always been a primary focus for all concerned.

We believe a solution to the skills shortage predicament is to be found in apprenticeships. A transparent approach to further training with learners, training providers and employers working in unison to raise the bar and, over time, reduce the skills gap. This transparency can only come about through a mutual level of understanding of the new apprenticeship framework and standard. As we collectively navigate these early days of the new structure we will pick up the pace and gradually expedite the process. This pioneering phase will ensure that learners, training providers and employers alike feel more unified in their approach to facilitating apprenticeships and their part in building the new UK - 'a nation of apprentices'.

Read more about apprenticeships and End-Point Assessment along with the latest insights, analysis and solutions for advanced manufacturing and engineering in EAL and the Enginuity Group's RevEAL publication. Click here to download your copy.

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