Everyone is talking about apprenticeships and NVQ’s at the moment, but how can that help you and your business to prosper? We have looked at what they can do for your business, how you can access funding to lower the impact on the balance sheet and how everyone can benefit from planning for success.
Our business is based in an area of the UK with the highest levels of inhabitants without any qualifications. The construction industry is facing a skills shortage which is likely to deepen post-Brexit. So what do we do? We keep doing what we have done for the past couple of years…..we offer every single one of our employees the opportunity to develop themselves through NVQs or apprenticeships. With eye watering tuition fees, access to a university education is not necessarily an option for school leavers nowadays. More and more are looking for employment and a way to reach their potential without mounting thousands of pounds worth of debt, but are employers now feeling the pressure to fill the educational vacuum that tuition fees has created? Offering training is an expensive gamble – time away from normal tasks, added pressure to employees, resources required to offer those opportunities are not easy to come by for an SME. So is it worthwhile?
We have been working closely with our local, Dudley College, for the past 3 years to offer every member of our workforce the opportunity to develop their skills. The vast majority have taken up the offer meaning that around 90% of those at Howells Glazing are developing their skills through us in one way or another. We recognize that investment in our people builds a loyal and motivated team and obviously by developing our staff they become more skilled in the workplace which is a direct benefit to us. We recognize however that there are downsides to this too.
It would be foolish to ignore the added pressure people can feel when plunged back into a classroom environment, or perhaps haven’t had to sit an exam for decades (although exams are not compulsory). This can be unnerving and something to give consideration to. Also there is a great deal of time away from normal work duties which can have a short term impact on productivity. However we feel strongly that by investing in our workforce in an investment in the company and the local community. Based in the West Midlands it is perhaps important to note that this area has the highest level of inhabitants with no official qualifications compared to the rest of England and Wales (around 18% of people with no qualifications according to the Office for National Statistics in 2014). An NVQ at level 3 is accepted as being equivalent to A-level and level 5 equivalent to a foundation level degree. When you consider that the average student graduating from university is burdened with between £35-£40k of debt it is easy to see the appeal of working for an employer where you can gain qualifications that will benefit you through life and also earn at the same time.
Many employers might be nervous about offering such qualifications in case those employees gain one and then leave. This is of course a possibility and no investment is without its risk, but we feel that our employees feel more valued as a result of being offered the opportunity to study while at work. Let’s not overlook the obvious – our workforce are becoming more skilled as a result.
So is it worthwhile? There is clearly an appetite for NVQs from employees, otherwise why would 90% of our staff jump on board? NVQs can be tailored to the individual employee and to the relevance of the employer making it an ideal win-win. We have benefited from an upskilled workforce and observed an upturn in staff engagement and motivation. Yes there is the risk that an employee may gain a qualification and leave, but there is a greater possibility that they will stay.