How Further Education Can Benefit your Business

Graham HoyleBy Graham Hoyle OBE, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.

With this year firmly underway, many businesses are likely to be looking at their resourcing capacity for this year and considering recruitment needs. With restricted budgets most likely in place, there is a need for many employers to recruit in a more efficient way, in order to gain the best out of the available resources. One cost-effective option is to take on staff who need to be invested in and trained while on the job.

Further education (FE) engages with over three million people each year, yet many employers have little knowledge of what it covers, or what skills those with FE qualifications can bring to the workplace. Further education is a term that applies to learning in colleges (traditionally as an alternative to school), work-based learning through colleges or an independent training organisation, and in a broader sense, any learning that takes place outside of school or university. On a basic level, reviewing a CV containing FE or vocational qualifications is not as simple as looking for a degree or specific A Level grades, and those employers who only consider more traditionally academic qualifications might be missing out on this valuable pool of talent.

Recent research which looked into employers’ views on further education found that vocational qualifications are highly valued by the employers that do take advantage of them, and increasingly so. According to research by UKCES, 86% of companies agree that having staff with vocational qualifications leads to better business performance and over three quarters (77%) agree it leads to improved staff retention. With the Government putting FE at the centre of its investment, now is the time to take another look at what the sector can offer your business.

Taking on young apprentices

At a time when youth unemployment is rife, Apprenticeships are on the rise. Last year alone, over 700,000 people were on Apprenticeship programmes designed by employers. According to recent research, nearly a quarter (24%) of ‘young growth businesses’ (those set up in the last three years and are showing strong signs of growth) offer Apprenticeships compared with only 13% of UK businesses overall. On top of this, a quarter of all businesses who don’t currently offer them expect to do so in the next 2-3 years, indicating that these schemes could be an excellent avenue for your recruitment needs.

There are more than 150 types of Apprenticeships available to young people from construction to hospitality and over 600 training organisation members of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), ranging from national organisations to smaller, specific operators, are on hand to help your business benefit from these schemes.

Understandably, not every school leaver is ready to start an Apprenticeship or a job and you may not feel ready to employ a young person as an apprentice. To counter this, by taking advantage of other government funding, training providers can ensure young people are work-ready, arranging for further training on the job that can lead to a recognised qualification.

Upskilling existing members of the workforce

Rather than taking on new, younger staff, you may look to consider upskilling your current adult employees by investing in training. Recent research by UKCES found that when it comes to training existing employees, almost three-quarters of employers (73%) provide some form of development opportunity for some or all of their staff with nearly half (47%) making use of external training for workforce development. In particular, nine in ten ‘young growth businesses’ provide training for their staff, indicating a wider willingness to take on less experienced staff and train them in the particular skills that are required.

If you’re wondering how you can get started, training providers can show you how they can convert staff of all ages into apprentices and provide them with the skills to make the business more competitive. As well as adult Apprenticeships, you can also access stand-alone vocational qualifications and basic skills training which are packaged to meet your company’s needs.

Overcoming barriers

As well as on the job learning and Apprenticeships, you may wish to consider working with training organisations to offer positions for individuals who are trying to overcome significant barriers that previously have prevented them from securing long-term employment. For example, ex-offenders are given the chance to gain qualifications in subjects such as maths and English as well as improve their employability skills.

Recruiting unemployed people with the right skills for your business

Finally, tens of thousands of jobseekers are currently being helped to find work with businesses. In 2011 alone, around 55,000 jobseekers on benefits were placed in a job by providers and a further 113,500 unemployed learners secured jobs while studying on skills programmes. The majority of job training is demand-led, based around working with employers to determine their requirements and training individuals to fill their vacancies.

A classic misconception is that further education is only available for young people; however there are a wide range of opportunities available from the sector to improve the skills of your employees, resulting in an excellent return on investment for your organisation.

To explore these opportunities, you can check out the Course Directory on the National Careers Service website at or contact them on over the telephone on 0800 100 900. Alternatively, to find out more about Apprenticeships visit, and to find out more about work-based learning visit or

Graham Hoyle OBE is chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers. He is supporting a new campaign to promote further education to employers. – (photo supplied)

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