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Producing the workforce of the future: why apprenticeships are better


74% of people are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future. But what do businesses need to do in order to keep up?


In 10-15 years, what will the world of work look like? With 30% of UK jobs at risk because of automation, will our human workforce become obsolete in the workplace of 2030? 

Unlikely – but it’s inevitable that our workforce will need to adapt substantially. So how can HR and L&D leaders help to prepare for these developments – and how can we produce a workforce of the future?

What is the workforce of the future?

1. Firstly, it’s dealing with shifting demographics. 

In the Workforce of the Future, PwC reports that our ageing population is changing the labour pool. Longer lifespans are putting pressure on businesses to re-evaluate their strategies for talent and training. Older employees may need to refresh long-forgotten training, and many team members may need support with adapting their skillset to match the needs of the business. 

2. Second, it’s emphasising cognitive skills. 

The World Economic Forum predicts that business will need a new “core” set of skills, encompassing a blend of social skills (influencing, emotional intelligence, etc.), processing skills (active listening and critical thinking) and cognitive skills (creativity and mathematical reasoning). While technical aptitude remains a necessity, complex skills like digital know-how, management capability and entrepreneurship will become just as important.

3. Third, it’s getting used to (and adopting) automation. 

In research carried out by McKinsey & Company, they predict that automation will cause a considerable shift in skills needs. With increasing automation of manual tasks comes increased productivity and improved performance, and the rapid rate of technology will see a rise in the demand for talent that can “innovate, develop and adapt” advanced tech. 

4. Fourth, it’s becoming increasingly specialised.

In their Four Worlds of Work, the PwC see the business landscape falling into four “worlds”. Their “Red World” suggests that in a society where innovation rules, careers are no longer developed by employers, but by individuals’ skills and experience, causing a surge in specialisms. Their prediction is that employers will value specialists and skills over a university degree, with talent being fiercely competitive. Actually, this doesn’t sound too far off from our current reality.

5. Lastly, it’s a growing need for productivity. 

However, in PwC’s “Blue World”, capitalism reigns king. According to this prediction, corporations will grow to an enormous scale and rely on a highly productive workforce to fend off competition and maintain profit margins. In this scenario, job security is low, with employees constantly refining their skills to maintain their status in the company – and employers having to spot talent early, working closely with schools. Again, the picture this paints isn’t far from our own present.

The part that apprenticeships play

While HR and L&D leaders are growing increasingly panicked about recruitment and upskilling, we believe many are overlooking one major area of potential: apprenticeships. 

Traditionally used as a method of sourcing emerging young talent, apprenticeships have now grown to become a training method used across all levels of the organisation. 

With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, HR and L&D leaders have the opportunity to up-skill their people in a cost-effective manner. For example, businesses can provide employees with qualifications from bodies like the CIPD, ACCA, CMI or CompTIA at no additional cost. 

Furthermore, since the introduction of the levy, there’s been a major shift in how businesses have viewed professional apprenticeships. Arch have been at the forefront of this drive, constantly pushing the boundaries of what a modern apprenticeship is. From helping employers achieve their business objectives using the levy and placing rising talent in their dream career, Arch have impacted thousands of people across the UK.

Here at Arch and AVADO, we have discovered that apprenticeships have an important part to play: 

  1. It’s a chance to up-skill at all levels.

An increasing number of employers are utilising apprenticeships to upskill their existing staff through the levy. 

By having access to a ring-fenced portion of funds dedicated to apprenticeship training, you can offer training for employees without having to wrestle budget for it. It’s an initiative that puts training front-of-mind within the C-suite and is driven by the entire company – not just HR or L&D. As a result, people at all stages of their career are able to maintain their skillset to meet the needs of their industry, especially important in an age of continuous technological advancements. 

2. It’s a way to plug the skills gap. 

Apprenticeships are developed based on the needs of industry, with new programmes being released every year. The current government portfolio is extensive, covering industries like cybersecurity and data science with emerging specialisms like Artificial Intelligence and Accessibility & Digital Inclusion also under development. As the skills gaps continue to grow, apprenticeships can be developed to fill them – taking only a couple years, a turnaround that is much quicker than creating a new university degree. The content of apprenticeship programmes are also regularly under review, so apprentices are being taught skills that are relevant for the business now. 

3. But it’s more than just technical training.

The longevity of an apprenticeship programme makes it a learning experience that’s more than just gaining a qualification. By providing your junior execs a formal training programme, they develop the ‘core’ blend of social, processing and cognitive skills needed by the business early in their career. The practice of on-the-job learning renews an inquisitiveness in your existing employees and not only improves their own job satisfaction but the people that they work with.

“Go for it! I never thought in a million years (at the age that I am now) that I’d be doing an apprenticeship, whilst working full-time with two young children […] Being out of education for 13 years, this is just what I needed to gain the confidence that I can actually do it and to push further”

– Chetna Kerai, Assistant HR Business Partner and HR Apprentice at NatCen

Apprentices are the workforce of the future

Investing in your workforce’s skills is the only mechanism to future-proofing your business. Apprenticeships have become a crucial part of L&D, and by getting the most out of your levy you’ll be saving costs on training while encouraging lifelong learning in your organisation. You can help alleviate anxiety around the volatile and uncertain working conditions of the future – and arm your employees with skills that allow them to be flexible in their industry. 

Here at Arch, we’ve been developing future-facing apprenticeships since 2012. From creating the first digital marketing apprenticeship programme in the UK to spearheading the creation of advertising’s first ever apprenticeship with the IPA, we look into the real skill gaps that businesses are facing and produce effective solutions. Arch are now part of AVADO, a leading EdTech company, to become one of the most exciting providers in the education space.  

Interested in learning more about levy-funded apprenticeship programmes? Get in touch today at solutions@avadolearning.com.  

Stephanie Khan

Stephanie Khan

Stephanie is a former Marketing Apprentice, and now a Content Marketing Executive at AVADO. Since completing her apprenticeship, she has become an advocate for apprentices and the benefit they bring to businesses. She writes about modern apprenticeships, the levy, and the digital skills crisis.

Posted June 25, 2019
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