How to Build a Future-proof Workforce


Many businesses are now planning their recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a difficult time for both the employer and the employee. There is no doubt that the phrase customer service has been usurped by the word furlough but is all that about to change? 

Organisations are now seeing more than ever the importance of having highly skilled, loyal employees to help their business evolve through the ‘new normal’ way of working. Modern day businesses should always be pointing in the direction of change, and adaptability is key to keep a company profitable. Being able to recognise changes and new trends as they happen and then learning the new knowledge, skills and attitudes that are needed to cope with the demands of the transforming landscape can only end positively.

Apprenticeships for all

Apprenticeships are a valuable option for both the employee and the employer. They are a cost-effective way to help build and grow a strong workforce as they help to develop an individual’s skills, knowledge, and understanding required to fit key roles within an organisation. High quality training helps employers to build and sustain a long-term edge in their industry whilst also allowing individuals to take the first steps in their career, upskill, or change the direction of their career completely. 

We have entered a new age of apprenticeships where training and education is accessible for people of all ages, from entry level to CEO. Apprenticeships are no longer exclusively for school leavers who need an alternative route to A Levels or University. Many businesses are now utilising apprenticeships to build a loyal workforce who are trained with the specific skills needed to keep up to date with new technologies or practices within their sector. According to a Government survey, 86% of employers said that apprenticeships helped them develop skills within their workforce that are relevant to their organisation, meaning employers can mould new recruits to meet their business needs.  

Closing skills gaps

Apprenticeships are an effective way for current workers to upskill and progress in their career. Ensuring that employees are refreshing their knowledge helps to narrow the skills gap in any business, meaning that employees are equipped with the insight and skills needed for an organisation to grow and innovate. Employers can enrol existing staff on to a relevant apprenticeship programme, no matter their prior attainment – as long as they can demonstrate that there is a business need, where additional skills and a greater understanding will be achieved. The employee will still fulfil the role of their job while they study. By the end of the qualification, they will have gained the knowledge needed to enhance your business from within – and they’ve probably already started doing it! When you train your staff, they become better learners. With an agile, fast-learning team, you can work more efficiently and effectively than your competition. By upskilling your current employees with an apprenticeship, you will be investing in the training and education of an individual that you trust and who already has an interest in the business. This will inspire staff to move through the ranks, producing a progressive workforce, increasing their morale and trust in you. 

People development

Apprenticeships are a fantastic provision to help young people get their foot in the door and gain real life work experience, whilst also earning a wage. I have seen this first hand recently at organisations like The Hut Group, who have become an online retail force in the last decade. They have enrolled over 200 new staff members onto apprenticeships in customer facing roles and embedded them as part of their people development strategy. 

The value of real work experience has increased in recent times as it shows employers’ commitment and motivation. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there is an increasing number of young people that have found themselves in difficult situations regarding employment and/or training opportunities. Currently, unemployment amongst the 16-24 age range in the UK is at 14.3%, equating to a large talent pool that businesses can have access to and could be working with. Many young people have grown up with exposure to digital technology and we know from experience they can bring a new confidence, approach, and outlook to their new employers. As a training provider we know first-hand how many young people are keen to learn and are eager to begin an apprenticeship programme. For some roles, we have been literally deluged with applications.

The range of apprenticeships

A sector where we have seen apprenticeships have a real impact is customer service. Customer service apprenticeships enable businesses to train their staff to deliver the best service to the consumer as possible. This is going to be especially important for the hospitality and retail industries as the competition will be high coming out of the pandemic.

It gives people the opportunity to gain an understanding of customer insight and why continuous improvement is important in a service environment. Customer service is a complex profession which includes a lot more than being polite to customers, it involves problem solving, finding solutions under pressure and the knowledge to make the correct delivery decision in different situations.

It is obvious that experience is vital when it comes to a career in customer service but building knowledge around best practice is just as important therefore, giving individuals the opportunity to do both through an apprenticeship is the perfect solution. It is essential that businesses who are customer facing realise the need to train their staff to be able to compete, as businesses who do not invest in their staff often get overtaken by those that do. In a Government survey, 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation and 74% said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

There are multiple levels of apprenticeships from those which equate to GCSEs all the way up to a master’s degree, including specific apprenticeships in Customer Service. It is possible for an ambitious apprentice to continue lifelong learning by progressing from a level 2 (intermediate) to a level 7 (master’s degree) over years of education and training to expand their skills in their profession. This is valuable for businesses because it allows employers to create a workforce that is trained effectively to keep up to date with the changing ways of working and new trends whilst also improving employee engagement. 

On-the-job training

As a training provider, we have found that businesses have previously been reluctant to hire apprentices because of the 20% required off-the-job training, where the apprentice had to attend a college facility away from the workplace. Now, businesses can combine work and study by mixing on-the-job training and traditional learning, with the help of an Apprenticeship Trainer. This training can take place in the workplace where the apprentice can learn new skills suited to the business. Apprentices can immediately put their knowledge into practice and make an instant impact by contributing to improving productivity.

Learning Curve Group work with over 4,500 employers a year and, as one of the UK’s largest and most diverse training providers, we have seen how apprenticeships can transform lives and also transform businesses. There is more funding available to businesses now than ever for hiring an apprentice. Not only is there funding for the cost of apprenticeship training, but there are also grants  which are paid directly to the business. Employers are now eligible to receive up to £4,000 for each new apprentice they take on. This money can be used for training, uniform, or be put towards a business recovery plan.

Apprenticeships are a way for young people to get their foot on the ladder whilst also offering an opportunity of lifelong learning for people who want a career change or to advance their skills to progress. Getting young people engaged in advancing their customer service skills can encourage them to build a career in the profession whilst also giving current employees ambition to work towards moving up the ladder in the business. It is important that employers realise the true value of apprenticeships and how they can have a lasting impact on their business, so they can grow a loyal, future workforce and experience the vast number of benefits that high quality training provides. 

In a Covid world of change the words of the consultant Peter Drucker resonate more than ever “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

Steve Morris

Commercial Director, Learning Curve Group

Steve has over 20 years’ experience gained in the world's largest and most successful recruitment, training and HR consultancies. Steve has a deep expertise within the world of work and learning which he uses to deliver Learning Curve Group’s core value of ‘transforming lives through learning’.