The value of apprenticeships

For decades, England has suffered a long-term and substantial decline in employer investment in training. Despite introducing the apprenticeship levy in 2017, apprenticeships are still not delivering in terms of skills, quality, and experience. We fall far behind our European neighbours, whose apprenticeships offer more advanced levels.

Supporting young people

We know that preparing young people for the world of work is key to our long-term productivity and competitiveness. Apart from being critical to the UK’s economic future, we know that recruiting and developing young people improves workforce diversity, introduces new ideas and skills, and helps us build talent pipelines. 

In 2021, the CIPD launched its One Million Chances campaign to encourage employers to create a million opportunities for young people (aged 16–30) through jobs, internships, work experience, and apprenticeships T-Levels or the Kickstart Scheme. 

National Apprenticeship Week 2022

So ahead of the 15th annual National Apprenticeship Week 2022 (7 to 13 February), we encourage you to learn more about the value of apprenticeships. Discover their background and how they are evolving, and what they can bring to employers and employees regarding future-proofing and career development. 

In the profession, we are all (painfully at times) aware of the pre-pandemic challenges and those brought about, either directly or indirectly, by the combined forces of the pandemic and Brexit. Our people’s need for new skills will continue to shift; we must step up to the mark.

In its recent report on emerging HR trends, Gartner found that new skills are replacing old ones (no surprise there). So many things in our personal and professional lives have changed for good. 

Further illustrating the skills point, Gartner research found that ‘the total number of skills required for a single job increases at 6.3% annually. (Top 5 HR Trends and Priorities for HR Leaders in 2022 | Gartner, 2022)

Twenty-nine per cent of the skills present in an average job posting in 2018 will be obsolete by 2022.

~ Gartner

How can apprenticeships help?

Apprenticeships have been around since the middle ages in the UK. However, industrialisation further increased their prevalence. By the 1960s, a third of boys left school to learn a trade for life through apprenticeships. Mainly for anyone who grew up in the late 50s or 60s, it was par for the course to hear of someone’s son or brother taking an apprenticeship, 

Today’s apprenticeships have evolved and offer a range of qualifications to anyone aged 16 or older, who lives in England and is employed (not in full-time education). 

Apprenticeships span all industry sectors and comprise thousands of job roles. As well as being offered to new hires, organisations can offer apprenticeships to existing staff members as a means of career development. Apprenticeships help organisations fill essential skill gaps. Employee motivation gets a boost too, which can improve productivity and retention.

Apprenticeships start at intermediate, progressing through to postgraduate level in some areas and last between one and six years, depending upon the role and qualification level.

Apprenticeship levels and equivalences

Equivalent educational level
Advanced3A level
Higher4,5,6 and 7Foundation degree and above
Degree6 and 7Bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • Time investment: Employees on apprenticeships spend 20% of their contracted working hours on off-the-job training or studying. 
  • Frequency: In practice, training might be anything from one day a week, through varying amounts of time per day, to more lengthy blocks of time. 
  • Delivery: Providers deliver training in various ways, from on-site, off-site training to online/distance learning (or a combination of some or all). 
  • Bonus: greater flexibility for both apprentices and their employing organisations. 


The Government provides funding through a levy on employers whose annual payroll exceeds £3 million. Whether they pay into the Levy or not, all employers can use apprenticeship funding. However, those paying the Levy may need to contribute a proportion of the costs.

Each Apprenticeship has a maximum level of government funding. Employers cannot use the funds to pay wages or non-apprenticeship costs; the funds serve only to pay apprenticeship-specific training.

Government training programmes

Apprenticeships aren’t the only routes to employment. The CIPD’s Employers’ guide to youth employment and UK training programmes (published August 2021) provides a useful snapshot of initiatives and a helpful summary of skills challenges, and descriptions of leading programmes. The CIPD’s practical resource is for any organisation interested in exploring and comparing which schemes best suit their needs. (Employers’ guide to youth employment and UK training programmes | August 2021)

Employers’ guide to youth employment and UK training programmes (August 2021)

Addressing skills and labour shortages post-Brexit

According to CIPD research published in 2021, ‘most skills and labour shortages pre-date the pandemic’. (Addressing skills and labour shortages post-Brexit, 2022). However, specific sectors –including hospitality, health and social care, and manufacturing– face particularly acute challenges with hard-to-fill vacancies. Based on the survey of more than 2,000 employers, focus groups with organisations in low-paying sectors and young jobseekers, the CIPDs findings point to a need for both the Government and employers to look at specific short-term interventions and longer-term investments to tackle the issues. 

Indeed, the CIPD called on Government to reform the Apprenticeship Levy to create a broader, more flexible training levy to boost employer investment in skills.

Apprenticeships in HR or L&D

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention apprenticeships in HR and L&D. These Apprenticeships offer both structured routes into the people profession and provide experienced workers with opportunities to progress in their careers (through upskilling or reskilling).

In practice, these apprenticeships are delivered in contractual partnership:

  • The employer: Committed to developing the apprentice through an effective on-the-job and off-the-job training programme lasting a minimum of 12 months 
  • The registered training provider: Either a registered FE college, university or independent training provider which delivers a structured, timely and credible training programme, which includes the employer’s active involvement 
  • The CIPD as a registered end-point assessment organisation: Approved to carry out robust assessment activities at the end of the apprenticeship training programme.

If you are interested in learning more about the employer’s role in HR and L&D apprenticeships click here. If you are considering an apprenticeship in the people profession, you can learn more about your options and the benefits of your employer choosing CIPD as your end-point assessor.

Does your organisation use apprenticeships or did you begin or progress your career through an apprenticeship?

Will you or your organisation be celebrating National Apprenticeship Week? We’d love to hear about your experience of apprenticeships and encourage you to write in with your story or share them directly via social media between 7-13 February, 2022 tagging @CIPD and using the hashtags #NAW2022 #BuildTheFuture

Further reading & resources


CIPD. 2022. Addressing skills and labour shortages post-Brexit. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 6 February 2022].

Gartner. 2022. Top 5 HR Trends and Priorities for HR Leaders in 2022 | Gartner. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 6 February 2022].

Location Manchester, England E-mail Hours Our hours vary according to our programme.
%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close