Skills Gap: The Important Role of Apprentices

Written by Steven Marwick

There is a massive skills gap in the UK at the moment. This has been something that has been building up for a while but was made worse by a combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also estimated that up to 85% of UK businesses have been affected by what is being called “The Great Resignation”, which saw workers voluntarily leave their current jobs in record numbers in 2021 and 2022. 

Another major factor in employees leaving has been dissatisfaction with the way their employers have reacted to the prospect of remote or hybrid working since the worst of the pandemic subsided. Many people became used to working from home and don’t see the benefit of being forced back to an office environment when they were being perfectly efficient from home. When such a seismic change to working practices has happened and people have tasted what it is like to be able to have a better work-life balance, it is unsurprising that they are unwilling to go back to the office so easily. 

This has had a knock-on effect across businesses, with staff shortages leading to the remaining staff being asked to work longer hours or to undertake work tasks that would not normally be within their remit. This increases employee stress and lowers morale, leading to more people thinking about leaving, at a time when businesses are desperately trying to retain the staff that they have.

Which Sectors Have the Largest Skills Gap?

Health and Social Work

This is an area that has been hit particularly hard during the Covid-19 pandemic as many people didn’t want to work in front-line health or social care settings when the pandemic was at its height. They considered this to be high risk and it is understandable that they thought this in the circumstances. 

The Health and Social Work sector was also hit particularly hard because of Brexit, with many thousands of European citizens who normally did these jobs going back home to continental Europe. Now that the pandemic seems to have subsided a lot, this means that there are opportunities there for apprentices to learn the skills and to step into the gaps that are there, often with better earning potential than before as employers are desperate for skilled workers. 

The apprenticeship standards that cover these are Care Services and Health and Science. Take the time to see if there is an apprenticeship that may suit you among those listed. 

Education & Childcare

Like Health and Social Care, the Education and Childcare sector has also been hit hard by the combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. Many people have abandoned the sector as it was seen as one of the highest risk areas during the height of the pandemic as employees were dealing with children from numerous different households. 

Now that the pandemic is subsiding again, there are many opportunities in the education and childcare sector and there are apprenticeship standards in many related areas including teaching assistants and early years practitioners.  

Accommodation and Food Services

The hospitality industry was hit extremely hard by the great resignation and by the other factors already mentioned because many bars and restaurants were forced to either close their doors to the public or introduce restrictions to keep people safe. These necessary public health measures saw reduced capacities and therefore less chance of making a profit. Many businesses had to close permanently and those that survived often had to switch to selling takeaway food in order to survive when the pandemic was at its worst. 

Many businesses in the hotels and hospitality industries are still reeling from the pandemic as Government support, while welcome, couldn’t hope to cover the losses that were being made. There are real opportunities for apprentices in these fields and the relevant apprenticeship standard category is the Catering and Hospitality route. There are various apprenticeships in this category including Commis Chef and Hospitality Manager

Skills Gap – How Can Apprenticeships Help?

Many people who have been leaving jobs have taken their specialist skills with them, leaving gaps in the organisational hierarchy where they once were. This means that now is the perfect opportunity for apprentices to prove their worth and secure their place in some excellent positions that have now become vacant. 

Because apprentices learn on the job, rather than in a solely academic environment, they are far better placed to take on the responsibilities associated with a role that a new University graduate who has no actual experience in the field. One of the major advantages of apprenticeships is that they afford the apprentice this kind of experience and this is great for their career prospects. 

Many employers are looking to apprenticeships as a way to fill their skills gaps as they can be a relatively quick way to furnish someone with the skills that are required for the role. They also avoid having to go down the route of a normal recruitment process, where many employers feel that after the expense involved of advertising, running interviews, engaging employment agencies etc, they are obliged to appoint the best of the applicants, even if they seem to be lacking in some of the areas that are needed. This is known as a “sunk cost fallacy”, where they believe that they need to have something to show for the money spent, even if that isn’t actually what they are needing in order to succeed as a business.

Starting an Apprenticeship

There has never been a better time to start an apprenticeship as your skills will be in demand if you are looking to go into any of the areas that are experiencing a skills gap. Being trained to apprenticeship standard level means you will have developed the skills required over the course of the apprenticeship that you need to succeed in your chosen field. 

If you would like to see which apprenticeships are available in your area today, visit our dedicated apprenticeship jobs board for more information.

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Last Updated: Wednesday November 16 2022
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