Workforce, Pensions and Training


Making apprenticeships work for the public sector

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2018 in March, Sue Husband, director at the National Apprenticeship Service, explains how the public sector can remain fit for the future by investing in skills.

Apprenticeships are at the heart of the government’s drive to equip people of all ages with the skills that employers need. They provide the opportunity, and the means, to help address the skills shortages reported by many industries.

This is especially true across our public sector, where apprenticeships play a vital role in helping businesses to grow and prosper. With skills shortages a key challenge across public sector services, employers must be able to secure diverse skills to help them deliver the highest possible quality of service in years to come. Apprenticeships can help ensure our public sector remains future fit by upskilling existing workers and attracting new, diverse talent.

Opportunities for employers

There has never been a better time to take on an apprentice. Employers can grow their own talent and develop motivated, skilled and qualified staff in a cost-effective way in line with their workforce needs. Now, employer-led apprenticeship reforms are making apprenticeships even more valuable to employers by putting those employers in control of the development of apprenticeships. Employers can choose the skills, training organisation, apprenticeships – and how those apprenticeships are delivered – to ensure they meet their organisational needs.

Apprentices bring enthusiasm, energy and fresh ideas to any organisation, contributing to its development and success. As well as encouraging a more diverse range of people into public sector services, apprenticeships also encourage skilled workers to progress their existing careers too. Degree and Higher Apprenticeships in particular mean businesses can train more of their employees in the high-level skills that are critical for business growth, while offering ambitious school leavers or experienced professionals looking to upskill the opportunity to learn at university, to degree level.

Meeting employer needs

Many employers have already made apprenticeships a vital part of their strategic plans to recruit the skills they need in the future. Fast-track apprenticeships at the Cabinet Office are some of the most highly sought-after of all, while GCHQ, MI5, Transport for London and National Grid are examples of other employers continuing to strengthen their apprenticeship offering to source diverse talent. On top of this we have recently seen a range of new degree apprenticeships established in education, the police and health and social care – with many more in the pipeline – all of which will help public sector bodies meet the target of having 2.3% of their staff as new apprentice starts by March 2021.

But there is of course lots more work to do to ensure that apprenticeships work for the sector as a whole. We are working with employers across the public sector to ensure that their needs are met, while helping them attract the right talent and boost the quality of candidates applying for apprenticeships. We’ve already launched a programme, ‘Amazing Apprenticeships,’ to help inform teachers and schools about the benefits of young people becoming apprentices, and we will be working with key employers in the public sector to drive further awareness of the great vacancies on offer through waves of marketing under the ‘Get In Go Far’ campaign.

High quality 

Since the apprenticeship levy and other reforms were introduced last year there has been a period of significant change for employers, and there will understandably be challenges for them as they adjust and respond.

Throughout this time we must not lose sight of why we introduced our reforms in the first place – to put quality at the heart of this programme for apprentices, and to put control in the hands of employers. Feedback we have had shows employers are positive about the reforms and taking their time to plan high-quality, well-thought-through apprenticeship provision that meets their specific needs.

Since May 2015 there have been more than 1.2 million individuals starting an apprenticeship, which will provide each of them with the opportunity to gain the skills they need to get on in life. This is a fantastic achievement but only the start, as we want to make sure all public sector employers have the skilled workforce they need.


National Apprenticeship Week 2018 takes place from 5 to 9 March. The theme is ‘Apprenticeships Work’ to showcase how apprenticeships work for individuals, employers, local communities and the wider economy.

Employers looking to find out more about taking on an apprentice should visit:

People looking for more information and support on applying for an apprenticeship can visit:


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