Job-ready on completion

Florence Orban explains why apprenticeships are providing employers with a valuable opportunity.

Florence Orban: at the helm of the NSA

It is widely recognised that having the right staff, with the skills and training they need to do their jobs, is crucial to the success of any company. The message from last month’s article was to seize the opportunity now to develop new skills in your workforce and put your organisation in the strongest position as the economy recovers. But with training budgets currently stretched to the limit, how can organisations achieve this effectively?

One of the answers may well be apprenticeships. As one of the key measures identified by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) for job retention and creation, apprenticeships are playing an increasingly essential role in today’s business world.  

As I write this, it is the start of National Apprenticeship Week 2009 (February 23-27) across England. The week seeks to raise the profile of apprenticeships and encourage more employers to take on apprentices, while paying tribute to the achievements of employers and apprentices to date and explaining the key role that apprenticeships are currently playing.

Employers around the country have been sharing the many benefits that apprenticeships are delivering on a daily basis for their businesses. Crucial for ensuring that the workforce has the skills it needs in order to remain competitive, even in difficult economic circumstances, apprenticeships also provide a high-quality alternative route to future career success for ambitious individuals.

Apprentices learn in the work environment, building up knowledge and skills while gaining qualifications and earning money at the same time. There are different levels of apprenticeship available but they all lead to a Scottish/National Vocational Qualification (S/NVQ), key skills qualifications, a technical certificate which gives the underpinning knowledge necessary to achieve the S/NVQ, and other qualifications or requirements as specified by the particular occupation.

Gordon Brown recently announced plans to fund an additional 35,000 apprentices this year, taking the government investment for this training to £1 billion in 2009-10. This will result in over 250,000 people starting apprenticeships in the coming year. Revived by the government, apprenticeships are now a key part of the post-sixteen education offer. They play a central role in the government’s plan for growing skills in the economy, with today’s figures being almost triple those of ten years ago. Apprenticeships exist across the breadth of the economy in all sectors and industries, and there are currently 130,000 businesses running apprenticeship schemes in the UK.

Small businesses are strong advocates of apprenticeships; in fact, 69% of all apprenticeships take place in small businesses. Nevertheless, the FSB believes that this figure could be higher yet. Many small businesses are still unaware that rather than recruit one person, they could have two or three apprentices for the same cost, with the added benefit of training and moulding them to fit their specific company ethos and values. In fact, a recent FSB survey of 1,300 business owners, showed that 95% of businesses were unaware of the wage contributions on offer to train an apprentice.

It is hoped that this ignorance will be challenged by the recent television adverts featuring Sir Alan Sugar. As he says, “Apprentices are ‘doers’, who make things happen in business.” Particularly in the current economic climate, employers are recognising the importance of these schemes to train skilled workers and help make their businesses more resilient during the downturn.

In October 2008 Lifetime was appointed as the Centre of Excellence for Fitness (CEFF) for National Employers by the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. The Centre of Excellence offers government-funded training programmes ranging from online management development diplomas to apprenticeships in fitness instructing (REPs level 2) and personal training (REPs level 3). Lifetime works in conjunction with some of the biggest employers in the fitness sector, which means graduates are employable as soon as they complete their qualification.

Each programme has been designed to meet the needs of both the employer and employee and comprises a classroom-based industry recognised qualification (lasting four or five weeks), followed by a period of work based training whilst employed by one of the leading health clubs or leisure centres. Hundreds of candidates have already undertaken apprenticeships with CEFF and in doing so have launched new careers, or are furthering their current employment, within Sport and Active Leisure.

With government funding providing a specific measure to help enable employers to take apprentices on during this difficult time, and on-the-job training ensuring that apprentices are job-ready on completion of the programme, it is likely that many more individuals and businesses within this sector are set to sign up to apprenticeship schemes as awareness of the substantial benefits grow.


Florence Orban is interim chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. For more information on the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, visit or for details on the Centre of Excellence for Fitness see

For previous NSA columns and other articles in The Leisure Review visit the features page.

The Leisure Review, March 2009

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“Employers around the country have been sharing the many benefits that apprenticeships are delivering on a daily basis for their businesses.”

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