How to build a compelling business case for apprenticeships

May 14, 2024 | Apprentices & school leaver, Home Featured, How-to | 0 comments

ISE’s apprentice employers have developed a guide to help organisations build an apprenticeship business case.

ISE has developed a suite of information and tools to help its organisations establish apprenticeships, including tools on using the Apprenticeship Levy and measuring early careers ROI.

Here we look at two core areas that you will need to consider when building a business case for the recruitment and development of apprentices. These are explored in more detail, along with best practice guidance in our Guide to Building an Apprenticeship Business Case.

1. Why do you need apprentices?

Consider whether apprentices could help your organisation meet its goals. For example, many organisations are struggling to find the skills they need to deliver their business strategy.

The time and cost to hire critical skills is going to continue to increase which could lead to a further reliance on costly contractors and temporary staff. Building talent via apprenticeship programmes, rather than ‘buying’ or ‘borrowing’ can help to reduce your organisation’s spend.

When there is a shortage of skills, or a lack of workforce planning, diversity ambitions are frequently not met as the urgency to fill vacancies is seen as more critical. Hiring apprentices to upskill and reskill underrepresented groups can support your organisation’s EDI goals. For example, apprenticeship starts in 2022/23 were 50.1% female, and 15.1% ethnic minorities.

Labour market demographics could also be a factor in your decision making. By 2050, the over 60s population will grow by 40%, 7m young people will enter the workforce and 10 – 12m experienced workers will exit, and the UK’s working population will shrink by 25%.

In the next five years, almost a quarter of jobs (23%) are expected to change according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023.

And with an aging workforce we need people who are currently in work to take up new opportunities and critically be supported to upskill/reskill. There’s also an opportunity to tap into new pools of talent such as the over 50s, ex-offenders, ex-military, carers, returners etc.

As part of workforce planning consider building new talent through apprenticeships and/or using them to upskill/reskill existing employees as well as to support people career transitioning.

2. What kinds of apprenticeships does your organisation need?

Collecting internal and external data can add weight to your business case. For example, ISE Apprenticeships Working Group ROI Toolkit includes wider benchmark data.

The following are some example questions you can ask and gather data on to build your business case. This is not an exhaustive list and you will no doubt identify your own which will resonate most for your organisation.

1 What roles do you struggle to recruit for? What are your time/cost to
hire trends to demonstrate skills shortages in market?
2 What are your salary costs for hiring experienced talent, can you forecast what the cost would be to hire and train as a comparison?
3 How significant are your contractor costs, what are the trends, is it on the increase? What pressure is there to reduce these costs?
4 For critical roles, where do you have issues with retention?
5 What is the age profile of your organisation, what key skills are you going to be losing? And / or are older workers being under-utilised / developed?
6 Are you able to gather any financial data that will demonstrate the cost of not being able to deliver strategy due to skills shortages and impacts to your clients?
7 How significant is your Levy pot? How much are you utilising? How much is expiring each month?
8 What does your engagement survey data show when it comes to lack of
progression opportunities or any other opportunity to improve culture?
9 Internal mobility and progression data – is it stagnant, could apprenticeships be used to improve internal (and potentially social) mobility?
10 What are the strength of succession plans for key roles? Could upskilling
support in enabling the people in the succession to step into the role?
11 Are you experiencing any potential restructuring? What are the potential
redundancy costs – could apprenticeships be used to reskill instead?
12 Do you have a graduate scheme, what are the challenges with it, how
strong is the ROI e.g. time/cost to hire, diversity, retention, attitudes, skills, salary; could apprenticeships be a better alternative for some or all those roles?
13 How do your ED&I ambitions support the wider talent and business strategy?
14 What are your diversity targets, how are you progressing towards these?

ISE members on using ISE’s apprenticeship tools

Gemma Fowle, Early Careers Manager at Novuna said, “We’ve used the ROI tool to build a business case for investing further in our early careers programmes. I was able to showcase some positive data trends from our first two cohorts and off the back of this, have gained approval for a third cohort.”

Stephanie Bishop, Emerging Careers Lead at Direct Line Group commented, “We have adopted the ROI tool to evaluate the success of three new apprenticeship programmes that we are piloting. We are capturing the data under five categories – engagement, experience, skills, impact and D&I – and our training providers are helping to input the data quarterly for the duration of the programme. Despite only implementing in the past couple of months, we are already starting to see some interesting trends.”

Lorcan Seery, Apprentice Manager at Irwin Mitchell said, “We have fortunately seen our apprenticeship proposition grow considerably over the last three years, where we have welcomed over 125 new apprentice learners, so now seems an ideal time to start using this new ROI tool. We are looking at using the outputs from our ROI analysis to provide invaluable information that we can socialise with our stakeholders to continue to strengthen our proposition on skills and development to help ensure Irwin Mitchell is set up for success in the future.”

Simon Reichwald, Chief Progression Officer at Connectr said, “Someone said, ‘It takes a village to build successful apprenticeship programmes’ – this gets to the heart of setting your business and apprentices up for success. The ISE have, again, brought together broad multi sector expertise to create yet more best practice guides enabling other firms to do more with the huge powerful and still under-utilised tool that is apprenticeships.”

You may also be interested in…

The future of early careers recruitment is untapped talent

How will the National Living Wage increases affect apprenticeships?

FDM’s approach to apprenticeship off-the-job training is embedded in mentoring

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