Placing existing employees on apprenticeship schemes is a wonderful way of upskilling and retraining them while making the most of financial incentives.
Robyn Elizabeth works for the Co-op: she began in funeral care before moving over to the finance department. As she approached her thirtieth birthday, it became clear that she would benefit from deepening her skills and acquiring a qualification to accelerate her progress.
Today, Robyn is midway through her Level 3 apprenticeship. She’s one of 742,400 apprentices in England, nearly half of whom are over 25 when they start. Many are also existing employees who have chosen an apprenticeship to develop skills or progress into a different role.
Upskilling with the Co-op
“I joined the Co-op in 2016,” says Robyn. “But it wasn’t until I’d worked in two different departments – funeral care and finance – that I decided to pursue a career in finance. It was obvious I needed qualifications and to advance my career.”
After conversations with her managers in the finance team, Robyn was put forward for an internal selection programme, leading to her starting an apprenticeship in summer 2020.
“Apprenticeships are an immersive experience, which really suits me. I’m a kinaesthetic learner (somebody who absorbs knowledge by doing activities rather than listening to lectures), so picking up skills working alongside others in my current role is perfect.
“It’s also helped me understand how the rest of the company works; I understand the bigger picture and have a greater awareness of what’s happening in the teams around me now.”
Learning continues in lockdown
Starting an apprenticeship during lockdown demonstrates that learning and staff development doesn’t have to stop because of the pandemic. The Co-op finance team is still remote working, but there’s have been plenty of opportunities to learn virtually.
“If you’re in a job already, like I was, never be afraid to ask your manager about apprenticeship opportunities. If your company cares about the development of its staff, people, your manager is likely to listen to your request, especially if you can explain how it will benefit the company.
“Apprenticeships allow you to boost your career and do something you want – no matter what age you are,” says Robyn.
“Apprenticeships are an investment,” says Laura Bullen, learning & development programme manager at the Co-op, which employs over 1,200 apprentices across a wide range of professions. “If an apprentice starts by learning AAT and progresses to become a chartered accountant, it adds great value to the company. The knowledge and skills they gain along the way are invaluable.”
Once an existing employee starts learning through an apprenticeship, it often leaves them hungry to learn more. “We often see people wanting to do another apprenticeship,” says Bullen. “For example, if a financial apprentice is successful at Level 2, it opens doors to Level 3 and beyond. As a company, we want to encourage that kind of personal growth.”
How to get started
Companies with a pay-bill of less than £3m only pay 5% of the apprentice’s training costs, with the Government covering the rest. At the maximum training cost of £8,000, this equates to just £400, which is much cheaper than paying for training courses.
Larger companies (those with a pay-bill of over £3m a year) pay 0.5% of their payroll into the apprenticeship levy, which goes into the Government’s central training pot. However, employers do get a £15,000 allowance to offset against the amount they pay.
National Apprenticeship Week takes place from 8 - 14 February. Find out more online:
Visit AAT’s apprenticeship page.
Request AAT’s employer guide.