With the annual Apprenticeship Week taking place earlier this month, this career route has unsurprisingly been a hot topic of late. With the recent Budget revealing an extension of funding for employers to encourage businesses to create more of these opportunities, HR teams will undoubtedly be looking to make the most of this talent attraction scheme over the coming year. But, how can resourcing professionals encourage the wider company to back investment in apprentices?

Whilst it’s encouraging to see the number of organisations committing to the development of this emerging workforce increasing, it’s perhaps fair to say that there are still a vast number of businesses missing out on this valuable resource. A recent report from the National Apprenticeship Service, for example, revealed that more than 37,000 places were posted on its website between August and October 2013, a 24% increase on the same period the previous year. The survey also found that the number of people applying for these places rose by 43%. With the percentage of individuals looking to take up an apprenticeship growing at nearly twice the rate of the opportunities being created, it’s perhaps unsurprising that, as the Government has highlighted, more places need to be developed.

So what is holding businesses back from delivering apprenticeship schemes? In many cases, it’s quite simply the perceived investment.

There’s a general belief that creating an apprenticeship programme is costly, both from a finance and capacity viewpoint. Added to this, many managers are under the impression that these individuals will not contribute to the business when it comes to bottom line figures for an extended period. But this is simply not the case.

If such a scheme is in line with wider company strategies and an efficient training process is in place, it’s possible to see a return on investment relatively quickly. In fact, a recent report compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that economic output from apprentices often exceeds the average wage and training costs of these individuals. According to Cebr, on average a business can expect to see a £2,000 boost to bottom line figures from an apprentice once wage and training costs have been factored in, with many companies reporting this financial benefit while the employee is still in training.

When we also consider that businesses are increasingly claiming that graduates and school leavers are entering the working world without the necessary corporate skills, the apprenticeship route becomes much more appealing.

It also can’t be overlooked that this career choice is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to further education, particularly in light of the tuition fee hikes. As more individuals look to this route to develop their professional skills and get their feet on the employment ladder, resourcing teams will need to create the relevant apprenticeship opportunities to attract this pool of talent.  Failing to do so could simply result in a disconnect between the company and a vital emerging talent group; the future generation of leaders.

It’s clear then that this talent attraction option will play a key role in people strategies in the near future and where mangers might be wary of such a route, HR professionals need to drive this incentive. Apprenticeships work for young people, and they work for companies. They enable school and college leavers to develop the skills they need to succeed, and they help businesses to recruit, develop and retain young talent from a broad, diverse talent pool. In my view, that’s a win-win all round.