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Focus on Skills: Why apprenticeships are the future for business

The need for specific employable skills in the workplace is essential. Attracting and acquiring new talent to all industries is a competitive field, with more students leaving school and attending university than ever before.

However, for growing businesses, the benefits of apprentices are becoming apparent. The ability to train your staff and integrate them into a working culture has its obvious advantages. But the reasons for creating on-the-job training courses for new talent are increasing every day. Here we look at how businesses are benefiting from apprentices, and how they can grow in the future.

Growing skills and businesses

Apprenticeships are one of the best opportunities for young people to learn valuable workplace-related skills. Where once the idea of apprenticeships was saturated by jobs in sectors such as engineering, construction, and care, a growing number of courses now compete with higher-level education and degree level careers.

The Government introduced an apprenticeships levy in 2017, forcing businesses with payrolls of over £3 million to reserve five per cent of wage costs for training in the workplace. The levy was expected to create 3 million more apprenticeships in the UK by 2020. It is essential for large businesses to generate high skilled employees from apprenticeships.

This is demonstrated by the growth of high-level apprenticeships over the past five years. A level seven apprenticeship is considered equivalent to a post-graduate course. A 2019 report found that only 30 people enrolled at this level in 2015, compared to 4,500 people in 2017 when the levy was introduced.

The growing number of high-level apprenticeships is reflected in the variety of roles available to those who want to learn in a workplace. Some examples include apprenticeships in aerospace engineering with the MOD, digital marketing, and as a police constable. UCAS advertises apprenticeships that pay £30,000 a year, over 25 per cent more than the average graduate salary in the UK.

A day in the life

Apprenticeships are not just an alternative to further or even higher education. Courses often contain useful skills that act as introductory workshop into specific sectors.

Grace started an apprenticeship in digital marketing in July 2019 with Mobile Mini, a storage container provider and rental service. She explains why an apprenticeship course appealed to her: “I chose to do this rather than going to university because I wanted to continue in education at the same time as learning on the job.”

For Grace, being able to work while earning had obvious advantages. But most importantly, she believes that it will benefit her career in the long run. She continued: “An apprenticeship really prepares you for the world of work, as you are not only continuing education, you are also gaining so much valuable experience of a real workplace.”

This reflects the growing need for sector-specific skills over generalised, particularly in digital and high skilled roles. For businesses, the prospect of moulding the ideal worker through work and education creates the perfect employee, ingrained within the culture of the company.

Beyond 2020

While apprenticeships are becoming increasingly prevalent in workplaces, the future will depend on them. The World Economic Forum noted that changing technology and business practices will mean that up to 42 per cent of skill requirements will change by 2022. Consequently, reskilling is becoming not only necessary but difficult to do on a large scale as well.

The turnover of essential skills means that they can only be learnt in the workplace, and often, if practical skills are taught in higher education, there is an expectation that they will be redundant by the time a student enters the workplace.

Only through apprenticeships can a business move with the era of accelerated and digital innovation. With young people engrained in a culture of digitisation, they will adapt to changing scenarios and technology. Businesses will compete for talent from a pool of young apprentices. As the number of apprentices increases, opportunities must adapt to meet the needs of an intelligent workforce, where education occurs throughout their working lives.

As apprenticeships become more common and attractive for both students and businesses, are we likely to see a shift in post-school education? With the cost of university becoming an unattractive prospect for young people, will apprenticeship schemes become the best way to prepare people for a working future? Only time will tell, but he benefits are evident.

iHASCO offers free training to all key workers across the UK

Bracknell based eLearning provider, iHASCO, have announced that all key workers across the UK can obtain free access to their Mental Health Awareness and Infection Prevention & Control training programmes.

The announcement was made shortly after they were listed on the Crown Commercial Service’s COVID-19 Catalogue of supplier offers.

Mental health and wellbeing has long been high up on the agenda for employers, but now, it’s more important than ever before. The coronavirus pandemic could have a “profound” effect on people’s mental health – now and in the future, say psychiatrists and psychologists who are calling for urgent research.

It’s the same with Infection Prevention and Control training; incredibly important in day-to-day life but with the recent Coronavirus pandemic affecting tens of thousands in the UK alone, it’s crucial that key workers are given high-quality training to stop the spread of the virus and save lives.

iHASCO’s Mental Health Awareness Course is IOSH approved and recently won the THS Health & Safety Awards. Their Infection Prevention & Control training has been recently updated and is currently in the IOSH approval process.

They also offer 2 variations of the courses listed above that have been specifically designed for the care sector.

“We can’t thank our key workers enough for the sacrifices they are making everyday, but if our training can help those who are struggling with mental ill-health or even contributes to stopping the spread of COVID-19, then we’ve made a genuine difference” says Alex Morris, Director at iHASCO.

If you’re a key worker or you’re an employer of key workers, get in touch with iHASCO today and they can get your account set up, free of charge.

Burning desire – Why fire training is the hot topic in health and safety

By Alex Wilkins at iHASCO

Look anywhere you want in the media and I guarantee you will find news and warnings about fire risks. Yet despite its catastrophic potential, the relatively day-to-day nature of fire damage is rarely appreciated. In truth, fire is a constant and very real hazard to UK organisations.

Home Office figures show that in the reporting period 2018/19, the UK’s fire and rescue services attended 15,005 ‘primary fires’ in non-dwelling buildings. That’s more than 280 per week; and those incidents caused 17 deaths, plus a further 1,061 non-fatal casualties.

Fire can also be disastrous in terms of operations, productivity and financial loss. Worldwide, fire and explosions cause the largest losses for businesses. Around 70% of businesses fail within three years of a major fire.

Thus, when it comes to fire, prevention is clearly much better than cure. But it’s impossible to predict when, where and why a fire may break out. Therefore, a culture of fire prevention must prevail throughout the organisation, from top to bottom.

Organisations in the UK simply have to take fire seriously. In some respects, their attention is mandated by law. Employers are legally required to train each of their employees in fire prevention under the Fire Safety Order 2005 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

But how can managers be sure their entire workforce is taking fire safety seriously?

What are the dangers?

Workplace fires can arise from a range of causes. These include faulty equipment (such as electrical equipment like kettles and ovens), clutter (particularly combustible materials like paper, wood, furniture etc.), poor standards of cleaning (for example when grease or oil is allowed to build up on equipment, or dirt and dust cause machines to overheat), human error (misuse of equipment, failure to implement safety practices or report malfunctioning machinery etc.) and arson.

The good news is that fire is frequently preventable. It is notable that according to the Home Office figures mentioned earlier, 75% of the non-dwelling fires in 2018/19 were accidental and could probably have been avoided.

How can managers ensure their organisation is fire safety aware?

In the UK, employers have a legal duty to prevent fire. This includes a duty to train all staff in fire prevention.

However, the means by which they achieve this is largely up to their judgement. And it can be hard to determine the best approach, not least because there are key differences between staff members and even sectors when it comes to fire prevention.

For example, sectors that involve care for others – such as care work, health services and teaching – may find fire safety and protection a natural ‘cultural fit’. In commercial sectors, or those working under constant pressure of time or productivity, fire safety may be seen as a waste of time or a matter of common sense. Such workers may resent training as an intrusion into their time.

There are differences between people, too, which exist regardless of sector. Some individuals will lack confidence in their ability to protect themselves and others. Some will be disinterested or may not learn well in classroom- or lecture-style settings. Staff may also have issues around language, rostering and/or ability to attend training locations.

It can also be hard for employers to quantify learning outcomes when traditional approaches are used. They can easily verify who has attended – but knowing what proportion of that training was understood and retained is an entirely different matter. Fire safety training is an investment of time and money, and it is reasonable to want clear results.

Online training solves many of these problems

Online training, also known as eLearning, can help organisations to overcome many of the barriers to fire safety. The very nature of eLearning means it can be accessed from any location, at a time appropriate for the trainee. Many courses are broken down into bite-sized modules which need not be completed in one sitting; this makes concentration easier and the genuine assimilation of learning more likely.

It is often possible to provide eLearning in more than one language, something that is very hard to achieve with traditional training methods and may prove particularly helpful in organisations with a diverse workforce.

Online training also incorporates online documentation and learning assessments, making it easier for an organisation to prove compliance with the relevant laws.

Don’t settle for box-ticking when only genuine fire awareness will do

Due to the commonplace nature of workplace fires and the devastation they cause, organisations must provide fire safety training that will be genuinely absorbed, retained and acted upon by staff at all levels. This is quite clearly in the best interests of the business, its workforce and the public.

‘Box ticking’, in the form of providing low-grade fire training because ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘we don’t have time to research alternative providers’, is frankly dangerous in financial, commercial, personal and reputational terms.

Fortunately, online fire safety training removes many of the challenges and inconveniences traditionally associated with workplace training and can even enhance the learning process and outcomes in some settings, while making it easy for organisations to demonstrate compliance.

And given the sheer devastation and loss that workplace fires can cause, that has to be good news for us all.

How we can entice young talent into the FM industry?

By Chris Townsend, HR Director, ABM UK

In the facilities management industry, the UK is suffering from a general skills shortage. Young people are typically not considering this industry as a career path creating a skills gap.

Therefore, it is right that we look to apprenticeships as a possible solution to this problem and highlight the important role they play in bridging this gap.

Open career opportunities that call for individuals with engineering skills far outnumber the supply of applicants. The facilities management industry needs people who are open to related careers, to be aware of all the opportunities that this industry is offering them. 

Whether these people are students coming from college, after university or later on in their lives, apprenticeships provide a secure route to upskilling and career progression.

At ABM UK, there are apprenticeship programmes dedicated to security, plumbing, cleaning, gas and engineering. These apprenticeships enable people to develop new skills as well as giving people a great start to working life. In all, there are 10 different courses and our apprentices not only earn while they learn, but have the option to work in a variety of disciplines within facilities services, management, which goes up to degree level and engineering. 

Education and awareness are the equivalent to condition monitoring and predictive maintenance when looking at diversity and the skills gap. By engaging children that are still early in their education we are introducing them to the possibilities of the facilities management industry, this is filling the pipeline of future apprentices. We are also ensuring there is a diversity of backgrounds in our people that will make our business and profession continue successfully. 

At ABM UK we want a pipeline of talented young people who aspire to have a career in facilities management. The individuals in this pipeline will be excited by its potential and would not accept a role in this industry as a back-up if their other career plans didn’t quite work out. We want to make apprenticeships an active career choice, and not a back-up plan. 

So what are we doing to make this happen? We are showing that the industry is about more than oily rags and blue overalls.

Firstly, we invested heavily in setting up our own training centre to ensure apprenticeships and training are at the heart of our business.

In 2018, ABM UK piloted the first ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P) which aims to tackle the perceptions of engineering and facilities management amongst secondary school aged children and their parents. The course of 10 modules, including experiments in conduction, magnets and motors, gives the students an insight into the world of facilities management and apprenticeships. Something they may have never heard of before. When these children leave school, they will be better informed of their choices and may well consider an apprenticeship in this field, and we’re very proud of the extensive range we offer.

And, we’re using our current apprentices as role models and ambassadors. It’s important that young children see people that they can relate to doing really well in these areas, acting as motivation for them to continue to be engaged in the programme.

Take ABM UK former apprentice, Marissa Francis as an example, and an inspiration. She chose the university route, but soon realised it wasn’t for her and chose a different direction – an apprenticeship.

Despite losing her mum and being responsible for bringing up her four-year-old daughter single-handedly, she graduated from ABM UK’s apprenticeship scheme and is now a qualified expert in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 

We are so proud of everything she has achieved and we’re all delighted that she was named ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in 2017 at the industry’s Heating and Ventilation News Awards.

Alongside the J.E.E.P initiative, as part of our grass roots work, we conducted a piece of research[1] which looked at the perceptions of apprenticeships in this industry amongst 2,000 parents and 2,000 young people aged 11 – 15. A lot of what we found illustrated the perception change work that needs to be done – for example, we found that over a third of parents don’t know what an apprenticeship is. Statistics like this need to be changed. The research also found that a third[2] of parents see apprenticeships as a last resort for young people who fail exams.

The research also found the top reasons that parents were not encouraging their child to undertake an apprenticeship. Almost half thought apprenticeships were poorly paid (43%), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (37%), and a perception that apprenticeships don’t lead to successful careers (17%). Those with experience or working in apprenticeships know that this is not the case. In reality, recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt. 

Initiatives like the J.E.E.P show students at a young age what they are capable of academically. Sometimes we excel at physical tasks rather than sitting in a lecture hall. Showing students the benefits of an apprenticeship could make a massive difference to their life and career path.

Following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, businesses are coming together no matter what industry, towards the same goal which is to educate the youth through apprenticeships. There is no question that this means the future is looking bright for apprenticeships in the UK, however, it is clear from the research ABM UK conducted that the perceptions around apprenticeships still need to change.

[1] Commissioned by ABM UK and conducted by Censuswide the research comprises 2,000 British parents of children aged 11 to 16 and 2,000 children aged 11 to 16 in April 2018. 

[2] 36%

Utilities and construction apprenticeships ‘the answer to falling university applications’

Apprenticeships can meet many of the challenges thrown up by falling university numbers, according to DTL.

While many commentators have blamed high tuition fees for a growing number of young people choosing not to apply for university, in turn raising fears of a lack of social mobility, DTL points out that school leavers give other reasons too, including that they don’t enjoy studying or don’t think they have the necessary academic skills for university.

The training company says that apprenticeships have the capability, not just to provide an alternative to university, but also to address the wider issues.

Operations Director, John Kerr, said: “Instead of racking up student debt, apprentices earn while they learn, and apprenticeships provide other ways of learning for those who aren’t suited to academia. At DTL, we specialise in practical training for high earning roles in utilities and construction. Yes, there is an element of classroom learning, but for most of our apprenticeships, the focus is on learning through well-supervised, genuine on-the-job experience.”

Kerr says that apprenticeships can also generate social mobility, beyond what might be expected from gaining a practical qualification and a well-paid job.

He explained: “As an organisation that believes in providing a holistic educational experience, we support many young people who have fallen behind with academic learning.”

Crucially, he points out, that includes ensuring that apprentices attain satisfactory levels of literacy and numeracy.

Ensuring students attain a set level of literacy and numeracy is a requirement made of apprenticeship providers by the educational watchdog Ofsted, and DTL says it has invested in technology and teaching to ensure that apprentices reach the levels they need, not just to attain their qualification but also to equip them for life.

“Clearly, people who have poor literacy or numeracy, or both, are going to be disadvantaged,” said Kerr. “This is a significant step in giving them social mobility.”

With these crucial core skills and the confidence of having completed an apprenticeship, they might well go on to get a university degree or similar-level qualification, he added.

“For us at DTL, this is much more than a question of meeting the requirements of the regulator. You can see this in our response to another Ofsted instruction. We have pioneered the introduction of safeguarding, ensuring that young people are safe in the workplace and the training environment.”

DTL’s latest Industry Skills Forum on the subject brought together leading figures in HR in the utilities and construction sector, to discuss safeguarding and the government’s Prevent initiative, which requires education providers to play their part in ensuring young people aren’t recruited into extremism.

As an approved provider under the apprenticeship levy scheme, DTL says its customers expect it to deliver well-trained individuals, capable of carrying out their roles effectively and safely. This is particularly important when those roles are often in potentially hazardous environments in the gas, electricity, water and construction industries.

Kerr said: “Our first duty is to the apprentices themselves, and we believe that ensuring their safety is paramount. By also ensuring they have those core literacy and numeracy skills, we add value to the opportunities created by their apprenticeship.”

CASE STUDY: Changing the face of apprenticeships in FM

ABM UK apprentice, Joseph Goddard, is in his third year as an apprentice and is currently at Manor Walks shopping centre in Cramlington.

He has bags of talent and passion for sustainability and innovation, and so has shaped his remit at the site to include the opening and maintenance of a greenhouse and flowerbed on-site.

This idea has grown substantially since; he’s just pitched an idea to create a biosphere on site which will see him recreating habitats from around the world in order to grow plants not typically seen in the UK e.g. cacti. 

His next step is to make his work a hub for the community and he’s currently reaching out to local schools to bring them on board…

Joseph became an ABM apprentice in April 2017, based at Manor Walks Shopping and Leisure in Northumberland.  

After attending college and completing his AS Level exams in product design, applied science and business studies, Joseph decided he was ready to jump into the workplace. Although he was keen to continue his education, he also wanted to earn money. He discovered the ABM UK apprenticeship scheme and hasn’t looked back since.  

Turning 21 this month, the Cramlington local couldn’t be enjoying his apprenticeship more.  

His short-term goal is still to remain very much education-focused through his studies at college. He has already planned to continue his apprenticeship until he reaches Level 4 in Facilities Services Management but then intends to start working towards a managerial role. He loves being based at Manor Walks because of the diverse nature of the jobRight now, he undertakes a combination of educational subjects in college alongside practical, hands on experience at Manor Walks.  

He says: When I started my apprenticeship I was really comfortable with the college side of things because I was used to it and it’s a well-trodden educational pathway; I could do the academic aspects relatively easily.  

When I was given actual hands on responsibilities in the workplace it was a bit of a shock, albeit good one. It was so different to what I knew. I’m in my second year now and have worked across various parts of the centre and tried my hand at lots of different areas.  

“I can be inside the centre working with the cleaning teams, or doing paperwork such as rotas, timesheets or health and safety records. Equally, I can be outside looking at waste processes; recycling and compressing cardboard are two tasks that I really enjoy because they were the starting point of some pretty amazing projects that I think will be career defining.” 

By getting hands on with the centre’s recycling programme, coupled with environmental modules in college, Joseph is set to lead the development of an impressive biosphere project at Manor Walks. The project will see Joseph create a self-sustainable structure to promote and educate local schools on exotic habitats and what environments are needed to grow rare plants in the UK.  

Joseph continues: “The project I am working on involves growing flowers, fruit and vegetables in two greenhouses onsite. I was working on this with my manager and also the landscaper onsite. Watching everyone bring home fruit and vegetables for their families to enjoy gives me a great sense of pride!  It got me thinking about what else we could do. I asked lots of questions, and over time, started to think about a biosphere project; I developed the idea with my manager and I ran with it.” 

Joseph presented his biosphere project to the centre’s senior management team alongside ABM managers recently, with outstanding success. He’s just had a sign-off to put the idea into practice over the Christmas period and into next year.  

Joseph says: “I presented my idea to the team at Manor Walks, including my boss, the shopping centre manager and other ABM UK senior business people. I was nervous at first, but it was a brilliant experience and it helped to bolster my confidence. 

My ultimate goal is to get schools involved. It’s a brilliant way of taking a tour around the world. What started as an area that piqued my interest has turned into an actual passion point. I never considered for one minute that I would be doing this…It’s not what I expected to be part of my apprenticeship but I love it! It has really opened my eyes on the opportunities an apprenticeship can offer. 

In the long term I want to take my career down a managerial route. With sustainability high on the agenda, I see this project as a great addition to my experience and look forward to next year when I get to realise my idea.”  


CSMP Level 6 Accredited Diploma enrolling now

The Certified Security Management Professional (CSMP) Level 6 Accredited Diploma, the world’s favourite security management qualification, is enrolling now for October 2017.

Launched less than five years ago, the CSMP, from the International Security Management Institute (ISMI), has become the global leader in security management qualifications with students and certificants in 134 countries, representing many of the world’s foremost companies and organisations.

Since 2013, over 3,000 professionals have enrolled on the programme.

The 12-month/12-module programme blends industry global best practice with the UK NOS for Security Management and is delivered entirely by distance learning, with telephone and email coaching support from in-situ security manager mentors from around the world, all of whom are advanced-level practitioners.

The cost is £795 (+ VAT in Europe), all inclusive of materials, coaching, online library of resources and final diploma.

For more information and to enrol, visit or email

Guest Blog, Simon Field: Loud noises and preventing damage in the workplace…

When it comes to facilities management, it is not just the health and safety of your employees that you have to worry about, you also need to protect contractors and visitors.

Due to the varied tasks taking place within the facilities management industry, one of the biggest dangers can be exposure to loud noises. Simon Field, a technical specialist at science-based technology company 3M, discusses how a four-step approach can help to keep everyone at your facility safe. 

While the effects may not be immediately obvious, exposure to loud noises can have really harmful – and irreversible – consequences.

Anything from construction work to even lawn mowing could create damaging sound levels and if the correct steps are not taken, it is not only people’s health which is at risk – companies can also face legal action.

One of the most common health issues caused by high levels of sound is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) – which is a completely preventable but incurable condition.

In the past year around 15,000 people have suffered from NIHL caused, or made worse, by work. It is the most commonly reported occupational medical condition in the EU and between 2011 and 2014, NIHL insurance claims increased by 189 per cent.

As well as NIHL, loud noises can also result in tinnitus, which could lead to associated health problems such as insomnia. Safety can also be compromised, as people may not be able to hear warning messages or alarms if noise levels are too loud.

At 3M, we have devised a four-step approach to help companies keep everyone protected from loud noise.  


The first step in protecting your employees, contractors and visitors is to assess the noise levels to see if there is a problem. Start by asking yourself some straightforward questions such as, do employees need to raise their voices when speaking to each other or is the noise intrusive? If the answer is yes, then the noise levels are likely to be too high. Noise measurements should be conducted in any areas highlighted during your initial assessment. Noise surveys can be carried out in-house or by hiring a consultant.

It’s important to use the results of noise surveys effectively; deciding on noise control methods, re-evaluating risk assessments

and selecting appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).


As part of The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers are required to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work.

Depending on the level of risk, you should:

  • take action to reduce the noise exposure
  • provide your employees with suitable personal hearing protection

When deciding on hearing protection equipment (HPE), it is crucial to select a product that employees are motivated to wear. If the HPE does not fit correctly or is uncomfortable, the user is less likely to use it properly, which can significantly reduce the level of protection.

The two options available are ear plugs and ear muffs. These products come in different styles to suit a range of tasks, including disposable and reusable.

When deciding on protection, you should ensure that it is effective enough to eliminate risks, but does not leave the worker isolated. You also need to consider the working environment and check that it does not interfere with other PPE.


It’s important to ensure that your workers understand why they need to take care of their hearing and how they can do this. Employers need to provide suitable information, instruction and training covering the noise hazards present, the control measures to be used and the correct use of these, including hearing protection. This could include fitting technique, any maintenance requirements and where equipment should be stored.


Once you have offered hearing protection to your workers, you then need to be confident that it is protecting them. As everybody is different, it is not a case of one size fits all when it comes to hearing protection, so you need to be sure the equipment is being used correctly.

To help prevent incorrect use, 3M has recently launched its revolutionary E-A-Rfit Dual Ear Validation System. This system takes noise measurements from both inside and outside of the hearing protection, in order to calculate a personal attenuation rating for each employee. The test takes only eight seconds to complete and can be used as part of a robust training programme, showing workers how correctly inserting the right ear plug increases their level of protection.

Following this four-step approach will help employers to feel confident that they are best protecting their workforce from exposure to loud noises.

More information about E-A-Rfit Dual Ear Validation System is available here
If you would like more information on hearing conservation or have questions on other types of PPE, please feel free to give 3M’s H&S helpline a call on 0870 608 0060.
*3M and E-A-Rfit are trademarks of 3M Company.


Simon Field has spent the last five years at 3M supporting the personal safety division with technical responsibility in areas of hearing conservation, eye protection, powered respiratory systems and welding protection. He has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in this area, along with an IOSH qualification in ‘Noise at Work Risk Assessment and Management’.