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Vocational training benefits businesses and employees

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So what exactly is vocational training? In this article, we unpack some of the different types, explore the benefits, and address common concerns.

Vocational training is gathering momentum. People with vocational qualifications are believed to be more technically skilled, work-ready, adaptable, proactive and innovative than university graduates, research* for the Social Market Foundation has found.

What is vocational training?

Vocational training encompasses ‘learning by doing’ to gain job-specific skills and knowledge.

Unlike theory-based academic study, vocational training provides hands-on experience and instruction for the day-to-day realities of performing a particular role. It’s designed to prepare candidates for the workplace, and emphasises the skills and behaviours as well as the technical knowledge needed to shine in a particular industry.

How is vocational training delivered?

Vocational training opportunities are available in a variety of formats, such as:


From manufacturing to media broadcasting, there are vocational schools dedicated to a whole host of sectors. Learning includes classroom-based elements such as lectures, demonstrations and class discussions.

On-the-job training

This can include onboarding for new hires, or continuous professional development courses. Employees may also receive training to prove their proficiency in using a product or service. For instance, a bookkeeper or accounts assistant might want to study AAT to brush up on their accounting knowledge.


Not to be confused with other vocational training methods such as a short internship or work experience, an apprenticeship is a real job with a paid salary and benefits.

The apprentice is employed in a role relevant to the course they are studying. They then complete a combination of work-based training and off-the-job coursework. At the end of the programme – which can last between one and four years – the apprentice demonstrates all they have learnt in an independent assessment which will prove their competence in the job role.

Not just for trades – vocational training for professional careers

There is a perception that apprenticeships and other vocational routes are only for trades, but vocational training covers a wide scope of other well-paid and satisfying jobs in professional sectors, including finance and technology.

At Kaplan, our apprenticeship programmes develop accountancy, tax, finance, data and IT professionals. They can fit into all career stages and be used to train and upskill new and existing employees across every level of the business.

The business benefits of vocational training

Like a quick win? When taking into consideration the productive output and subsidies vs the cost of training and wages, employers who take on an apprentice gain an early net financial benefit to their business of almost £2,500**. The government’s apprenticeship website*** has other very encouraging statistics, such as 74% of employers say apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

Increase retention rates

Apprenticeships can also help turn the tide on ‘the great resignation’. Staff churn is costly and disruptive, so many employers are utilising apprenticeship schemes as a tool to improve retention rates.

Research by the National Apprenticeship Service**** reveals that 69% of employers say apprenticeships improved staff retention. And 65% of apprentices stay working for the company that trained them when they complete their apprenticeship.

Attract millennial talent

Training makes a company more attractive to new recruits. Having an apprenticeship programme as part of your training strategy signals to potential top candidates that your company will help them improve their skills and progress within your organisation. This is particularly important to millennials.

The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, is a significant portion of the talent market. Attracting the best of these millennial workers is critical to the future of any business, so it’s worth nothing that 35% of millennials believe excellent training/development programmes make an organisation compelling to work for, according to a survey conducted by PwC*****.

Distinguish your business from the competition

Apprenticeships lead to nationally recognised qualifications, which may give your business a competitive edge. Having staff fully qualified for particular job roles is a big plus point when tendering for contracts.

And don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills. Research published by the Department for Education shows at least 80% of apprentices report improved softer skills such as communication and team-working.

Apprenticeships – answers to common concerns

The ‘university-for-everyone’ mentality has pushed awareness of vocational training paths to the margins and created some concerns about apprenticeships. Let’s address them:

Will apprenticeships be expensive for my business?

Far from it! Apprenticeships are an incredibly cost-effective way to train your staff. If you pay the Apprenticeship Levy, there is no cost to you for taking on an apprentice. And if you don’t pay the levy, you only pay 5% of the training cost, and the government will cover the remaining 95%.

What about the 20% off-the-job training?

While much of an apprentice’s knowledge will be gained from day-to-day working duties, apprentices must spend 20% of their paid working hours in training and development. However, the 20% rule doesn’t mean apprentices need to be out of the office one day a week.

As long as 20% of their overall programme is spent in training, then it can take place whenever and wherever suits both parties. It can be completed online or in a classroom, or done at work via mentoring, shadowing, and developmental one-to-ones. It’s very achievable – particularly with the help of an experienced apprenticeship training provider like Kaplan.

Kaplan has a dedicated Client Solutions team, tasked with working with our employers to ensure that 20% off-the-job training is planned and mapped in a way all parties are comfortable it can be achieved.

- Jenny Pelling, Director of Apprenticeship Development and Diversity, Kaplan

How Kaplan can help your business gain the apprenticeship advantage

With a track record of more than 15 years in delivering apprenticeships, Kaplan can help your business use vocational training to reap the rewards of a well-trained workforce.

Find out more about the apprenticeship programmes we provide in Accountancy and Tax, Financial Services, and Data and Technology.