The global skills gap is affecting organisations of all sizes across all sectors. Research from the Hays Global Skills Index 2018 shows that global labour market conditions have become more pressured in the last year and that there is a growing talent mismatch between the skills workers possess and those required by employers. The talent mismatch across the globe means that candidates need to be prepared for different skill requirements and employers must come up with solutions if they want to retain their staff throughout innovations in the workplace. Apprenticeships could be the answer, but their full potential needs to be unlocked if they are to be a viable solution to the global skills shortage.
The value of work experience
It’s no secret that university degrees are required for many career paths, most notably those in accounting and finance, legal, engineering and life sciences. Employers looking for candidates in these industries require them to have specific academic qualifications to ensure they have the necessary technical skills and knowledge to perform the job. A university education will most likely be the best option for school leavers undertaking careers in these areas and often further qualifications will also be necessary.
However, in many sectors a degree may not be necessary and in fact, experience counts far more. Many companies invest in extensive training for their entry-level employees regardless of their educational background, so familiarity with the working world is one of the best ways young professionals can get ahead in their career. This is where apprenticeships have huge merit. As an alternative to university these schemes equip school leavers with the necessary skills for a job while offering them first-hand experience of an industry before beginning full-time employment.
Whether a school leaver goes down the route of an apprenticeship or a university degree, the value of work experience and exposure to an industry is not to be underestimated. In light of grade inflation due to the recent surge in first class degrees, it is more important than ever that young professionals do what they can to avoid being over-qualified yet under-experienced when they enter the workforce.
Realising potential holds widespread benefits
For apprenticeships to truly bridge the skills gap, their full potential needs to be realised. One of their major benefits is that they provide a clear career entry-point for professionals by offering insight into a specific industry. This has the potential to springboard a young professional’s career into their chosen direction and give them the motivation to hit the ground running in their first job.
Equally, employers need to recognise the potential apprenticeships hold for their organisation. By equipping professionals with specific skills demanded by an industry or role, organisations can ensure they produce the entry-level talent they need and create sustainable skills pipelines to nurture future talent. Apprenticeships also enable employers to create new and adapted professions which will help manage such a changing skills landscape.
What’s the solution?
Our changing world of work means organisations may need to adapt current apprenticeship schemes to stay relevant for the current workforce. A fundamental requirement for a successful apprenticeship is that they are appropriately tailored to a specific role or industry. Offering more bespoke apprenticeship schemes will help employers keep up with emerging and evolving roles in the face of such extreme change in skill requirements. Additionally, well-structured schemes may improve drop-out rates and encourage apprentices to complete the program by leading to a specific career path.
Although we have a well-established apprenticeship system in the UK and many employers are successfully using these schemes to bring in entry-level talent, apprenticeships need to be widely offered across different regions and sectors to really appeal to today’s young professionals. Making use of funding made available by the apprenticeship levy will enable employers to offer training schemes across all sectors so we can develop a skilled workforce on the scale that is needed.
If the benefits of apprenticeships are fully realised and these schemes are tailored to meet the needs of today’s workforce, their potential could stretch to improving youth employment rates and opening crucial skill pipelines, as well as alleviating the extensive skill shortages felt by employers around the globe.
About Barney Ely
Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources
Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and is now Director for Hays Human Resources. Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors covering everything from accountancy and finance to construction, IT education and healthcare.