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Lord Alan Sugar starts his hunt for the Apprentice again. The prize is a salary of £100,000 for the winner. Not many of us can afford that level of salary unless the candidate is very experienced and can add value from day one.

Recruiting a skilled work force via the normal channels of recruitment agencies is an expensive option for many businesses

A solution for employers is to develop young staff in house to gain the skills that will enable the business to grow in the medium term. This can be achieved through the apprenticeship scheme run under The Apprenticeships Programme – Opening Doors to a Better Future (www.apprenticeships.org.uk)

Apprenticeships can help businesses across all sectors by offering a route to harness fresh new talent. UK businesses consider skills shortages and recruitment difficulties a bigger threat to performance than soaring oil prices and declining consumer spending.

Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete depending on the level of Apprenticeship, the apprentices’ ability and the industry sector. The minimum salary is £95 a week; however, many apprentices earn significantly more.

The recession has taught us two key things: that businesses’ long-term commitment to investment in their workforce really pays off, and that young people must be effectively brought into employment. Apprenticeship programmes offer both of these factors. We would strongly advise you, and indeed all businesses, to consider apprenticeships as part of their recruitment strategy

At a personal level we have recently recruited a 17 year old on this scheme to train as an accountant via AAT and then ACCA . To date the employee has been a real asset and we are planning a second apprentice in six months . It does involve management time but the short term pain is already yielding results.

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