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Addressing the UK skills crisis

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To help address the growing crisis of skills shortages across the UK economy, JTL has established a new ‘Trade Up’ campaign, with the view to offer advice and guidance to businesses unsure about the apprenticeship process.

Recent comprehensive research carried out by apprenticeship provider JTL – with more than one thousand small businesses – has revealed the key reasons behind why they tend to avoid recruiting apprentices into the workforce and help close the skills gaps that are emerging in many areas of the UK economy.

JTL provides apprenticeships across the electrical and plumbing and heating sectors with more than 7,000 apprentices throughout England and Wales.

JTL has seen growth in the numbers of apprentices it works with over the last three years, but that is very much against the trend being seen across the UK, with a huge drop in the number of apprentices in the past two years, despite the Government’s previous predictions.

Not content with finding out why these small businesses in particular are tending not to take on apprentices, JTL has come up with more support, devising a campaign to provide advice and guidance for them to dispel many of the myths that are out there and to provide further support in those very areas that the respondents say they want help.

Jon Graham JTL’s chief executive commented, “The recent changes to funding for apprenticeships has inevitably had more effect on smaller companies where the resources for understanding the changes and administration are less than for a major business with dedicated departments to look after these matters. 

“We were convinced – and are even more so now – that small companies will resist the opportunity to employ apprentices if it is perceived as just another costly issue to worry about. 

“There are a number of perceptions out there that are simply wrong or based on a lack of understanding of important facts in relation to recruiting apprentices and the apprenticeship scheme as a whole. 

“We have to address these – in particular with regard to the funding issues. It’s interesting that those who are already employing apprentices are far more likely to recruit again. They clearly do not see recruiting an apprentice to be as complex as those who have never done it. 

“We need to get existing employers who recognise the benefits and clearly value apprenticeships to communicate those positives to fellow employers who are falling prey to the perceptions that so many have indicated to us through this research.

“Those of us working in the training sector need to do better in communicating the value of apprenticeships and the vital role they have to play, particularly at this uncertain time. 

“We know they provide high quality, motivated young people who could potentially take the place of those leaving the workplace, especially those we have previously relied upon from Europe, who are currently departing the sector with sizeable skills gaps to fill. But we are clearly not getting that message across clearly or forcefully enough.”

JTL’s ‘Trade Up’ campaign has developed a range of support for small companies, to help build confidence in the apprenticeship scheme and the young people they could employ. 

There are a number of myths being purported and shared amongst employers that have to be dispelled. JTL has devised a ‘Talking Heads’ video that is on its website and available to all organisations that want to use it, where those that currently employ apprentices make clear the benefits and argue the case against the apparent myths that are blocking future recruitment.

Amongst the myths busted are:

  • There is no need for fresh talent in the trades
  • Apprenticeship funding is difficult to understand
  • Taking on an apprentice isn’t cost effective
  • Taking on an apprentice involves too much paperwork
  • Taking on an apprentice will take up too much of my time


Jon Graham continued, “Many trades have an ageing workforce and are seeing some of those currently working in the UK returning home or looking to work elsewhere in Europe as a result of their concerns about Brexit.

“Whatever happens around Brexit, there will be a huge need for qualified tradespeople to undertake the vast amount of work required in the UK. 

“There is frankly a ‘head in the sand’ approach to the skills shortages we have, which will get worse if we can’t attract more talent from our pool of young people to these professions.

“There are no apprenticeships without employers – that’s a fact, so we need to communicate more effectively that there are skills gaps looming that will hold this country back. We need to ensure that the trades can survive and thrive in the UK.

“The Government funding rules can appear complex as they are dependent on a number of variables including employer size and apprentice age. However, that is just one of the important areas that JTL can help employers understand and ensure that they can access their full entitlement to Government funding.

“And if you work with a quality training provider such as JTL, you will get significant help and support in the recruiting of an apprentice, and with any administration and paperwork. JTL provides a dedicated training officer alongside every apprentice to help the employer and the apprentice to get through the apprenticeship as smoothly as possible.”

Jon concluded, “We want employers to understand the facts about the apprenticeship scheme.  At JTL, we are doing our bit to explode these myths and replace misunderstanding with facts, to encourage small employers across the UK to support the apprenticeship scheme and help them recruit and train the next generation of skilled tradespeople.”

 To find out more about the reality of recruiting an apprentice head for and follow the links to the ‘Trade Up’ campaign. 



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