A new study conducted by Calderdale College has revealed 45% of SME employers and decision makers in the Leeds City Region say they are looking to hire more apprentices over the next three years.

Those surveyed acknowledged the benefits that employing apprentices brings to a business, with top reasons including that apprentices tend to be more loyal (48%) and that they can bring in new learning and skills (48%).

However, despite the popularity of apprenticeships being on the rise, the research also identified potential challenges facing employers, with 99% surveyed stating that some barriers to recruiting still exist.

Within the study, the two biggest barriers identified were feeling that hiring an apprentice was too time consuming (48%), while 43% believed it would be too complicated.

In response to these concerns, Calderdale College is addressing challenges with a range of free training courses, services and support for employers through its Collaborative Apprenticeships project, designed to make hiring an apprentice as simple and straightforward as possible.

Covering everything from mentoring and mental health training, to an introduction to apprenticeships and the government’s Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) these free courses are not only designed to increase the number of apprenticeships in the region, but they also help equip employers with the skills to better manage apprentices and upskill their existing workforce.

Training and hiring expenses were also highlighted as potential barriers in the survey, with 74% of employers stating that additional financial incentives would be beneficial.

To help address the cost of onboarding an apprentice, Calderdale College also offers support around apprenticeship levy transfer models. These models allow the college to support SMEs in the area to offer new apprenticeships by transferring unused funds from larger businesses, which can then be used to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment.

Claire Williams, head of employer engagement at Calderdale College, said: “As the data shows, there is a significant desire to hire more apprentices in the region and while the benefits they bring are understood there still remain a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the hiring process.

“This perception issue is something we are working tirelessly to tackle through the range of tailored services that we offer at Calderdale College. From screening candidates, to writing job descriptions, and supporting with advertising, we provide a range of services that are designed to make introducing apprenticeships for the first time, or increasing the number that you already offer, as cost-effective and straightforward as possible.”

Running until September 2023, the Collaborative Apprenticeships project aims to increase the quantity and improve the quality of apprenticeships in Calderdale and its surrounding areas, by offering employers access to free training courses, services and support.

Collaborative Apprenticeships is managed by the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) and funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). Calderdale College is one of several colleges in the region supporting the delivery of the project in partnership with local employers and training providers.