09 Feb 2024
by Dimple Khagram

The power of apprenticeships in building a skilled workforce for SMEs

Dimple Khagram, Founder and CEO of Purple Beard explores the unique offering of apprenticeships this National Apprenticeship Week.

An apprenticeship uniquely combines paid employment with education, culminating in a recognised certification. It's a dynamic pathway where apprentices spend about 80% of their time gaining invaluable hands-on experience at work, complemented by at least 6 hours per week of structured learning in a classroom setting. This blend ensures that learning is deeply integrated with practical application, preparing apprentices for realworld challenges.

The growing trend

The allure of apprenticeships as a robust alternative to traditional university education has surged, especially in STEM fields. This trend is not confined to young entrants; professionals seeking to upskill or pivot their careers are increasingly embracing apprenticeships. The appeal has been magnified by government incentives aimed at bridging the skills gap in critical industries like tech, where diversity and skill shortages remain pressing concerns.

Benefits for SMEs

  • Cost-Effective Talent Development: Apprenticeships represent a financially savvy strategy for SMEs to cultivate a skilled workforce. Leveraging government funding and support, the training costs are substantially reduced, offering a viable alternative to the expense of recruiting fully trained personnel.
  • Increased Productivity: Apprentices infuse new energy and perspectives into the workplace, enhancing productivity. Their eagerness to learn and apply new skills means they quickly become integral, effective members of the team.
  • Tailored Skills: The flexibility of apprenticeships allows SMEs to focus training on specific skills that fill existing gaps within their operations. The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education supports this with over 1,299 apprenticeship standards, ensuring a wide range of industries can benefit.
  • Employee Loyalty: The investment in an apprentice's development fosters a sense of loyalty and commitment to the company, often resulting in lower turnover rates.
  • Government Incentives: SMEs are encouraged to hire apprentices through financial incentives, including grants for employing young apprentices and substantial contributions towards training costs, reinforcing the government's commitment to nurturing the next generation of skilled workers. Strategies for Implementation
  • Partner with Education Providers: Establishing robust partnerships with educational institutions is crucial. These collaborations can tailor apprenticeship programs to align with the company's strategic goals, ensuring apprentices are equipped with the skills that directly benefit the business.
  • Promote Inclusivity: A concerted effort to attract a diverse pool of applicants not only enriches the workplace culture but also broadens the company's perspective and innovation capacity. Outreach programs targeting underrepresented communities can significantly enhance the diversity of applicants.
  • Integrate with Existing Teams: For apprenticeships to yield the best outcomes, apprentices should be seamlessly integrated into existing teams. This fosters a culture of mutual learning and development, with mentoring programs playing a pivotal role in this integration.

Tackling the apprenticeship challenge at Purple Beard

In response to the growing apprenticeship challenge, Purple Beard is at the forefront of pioneering innovative solutions. Recognising the critical role apprenticeships play in bridging the skills gap, especially within the tech industry, we are committed to not only expanding our apprenticeship programs but also enhancing their accessibility and impact. Our approach is twofold: firstly, by actively collaborating with industry leaders and educational institutions, we aim to tailor our apprenticeship schemes to meet the evolving needs of the digital economy. Secondly, we're investing in comprehensive support systems that ensure every apprentice receives the mentorship, resources, and opportunities necessary to thrive. Through these initiatives, Purple Beard aspires to empower a new generation of tech professionals, equipped with the skills and experience to drive innovation and growth.

Apprenticeships offer UK SMEs a strategic avenue to develop a skilled, diverse, and adaptable workforce. By embracing apprenticeships, businesses not only address the immediate skills gap but also position themselves competitively in the global market. With the backing of government incentives and a shift towards valuing vocational training, the landscape of talent development in the UK is poised for a promising future, one that is rich with opportunity and diversity.


Dimple Khagram

Dimple Khagram

Founder and CEO, Purple Beard

Dimple is an experienced education practitioner and entrepreneur. She has worked in the vocational education sector for more than 15 years in various roles, She has led teams of delivery, business development and setting up & running two successful training companies in the U.K.

Her specialisms include AI, digital technology, curriculum design to support the delivery of technology standards, preparation for quality assurance, employer engagement, team management, partnership working, designing e-learning, project management and supporting delivery teams.


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