Businesses reap benefits of Further Education - Business Works
BW brief

Businesses reap benefits of Further Education

Graham Hoyle, Chief Executive, AELP New research collated by the further education (FE) sector has found that small- to medium-sized businesses are increasingly valuing recruits who have been to college and are taking on apprentices and providing vocational training for their employees.

  • Recruits from further education colleges more likely to be seen as well-prepared for work than school leavers of the same age
  • Employer perceptions of vocational training of staff more positive than in 2010
  • 86% of companies agree that having staff with vocational qualifications leads to better business performance
  • Half of decision-makers within small and medium-sized companies have FE qualifications themselves

The findings gathered from industry sources and from research commissioned by the cross-sector group shows encouraging signs that further education is being taken seriously by employers. Its also clear that there is more work to be done in demonstrating to businesses how recruiting workers with FE qualifications, or committing to external training for existing staff, can grow their businesses and improve staff retention.

Businesses prefer college leavers

While establishments recruiting education leavers generally find them well prepared for work, 17-18 year old recruits from FE colleges are more likely to be seen as well prepared than the same age group recruited from schools.

In particular, college leavers are seen by businesses as having better experience of the working world and a better attitude and sense of motivation. Overall, almost three-quarters (73%) of college leavers are seen as being well prepared or very well prepared for work according to the employers who took them on.

The findings counter the popular perception that further education qualifications are less highly valued than more traditionally academic ones.

Training on the job popular with many

When it comes to training existing employees, almost three-quarters of employers (73%) provide some form of development opportunity for some or all of their staff, with nearly half - 47% - making use of external training for workforce development.

Nine in ten young growth businesses - which have been set up in the last three years and are showing strong signs of growth provide training for their staff, indicating a wider willingness to take on less experienced staff and train them in the particular skills that are required. Almost one in five (19%) take on recruits who have few or none of the skills required for the job and start from scratch.

Vocational qualifications are clearly highly valued by the employers that take advantage of them, and increasingly so. 86% of companies agree that having staff with vocational qualifications leads to better business performance, up from 81% in 2010. Over three quarters (77%) agree it leads to improved staff retention.

However, there is still work to do in encouraging employers to offer FE qualifications to their staff. The most common reason given by employers for not offering vocational qualifications was a perception that employees do not want them; something that perhaps needs to be investigated further in workplaces.

"Further education providers do a very successful job at orientating young people to be work ready with the right skills and attitude to hit the ground running when joining a company," said Tony Lau-Walker, Chief Executive of Eastleigh College and UKCES Commissioner. "FE providers also work with adults already in employment upskilling their knowledge and capability to become more productive at work and build a successful career pathway. Hundreds of employers work directly with colleges and other providers to tailor training for their own workforce to bring value for money to their training programmes."

Employers benefiting directly from FE

Research commissioned by the cross-sector group among 1000 decision makers in small- and medium-sized businesses found that over half (51%) have a further education qualification themselves. For one in seven of these decision makers, this is the highest level of qualification they have.

Amongst those with FE qualifications, over a quarter (27.5%) gained them through work-based learning. Over two thirds (70%) of employers with FE qualifications believe that this has positively impacted on their current career.

The proportion of employers benefiting from FE varies by sector, with over two-thirds in the health and beauty sector (71%) having an FE qualification. The figures are similar for the financial sector at 64.3%.

Encouragingly, the prospect of taking further FE qualifications in the future is attractive to many employers. A third (33%) of employers without an FE qualification would be interested in taking one in the future and 45% of those with an FE qualification would like to complete something additional which was directly related to their career goals.

Apprenticeships set to rise

Data from UKCES shows that among young growth businesses, 24% offer Apprenticeships compared with 13% of UK businesses overall. However, a quarter of all businesses who dont currently offer Apprenticeships expect to do so in the next 2-3 years which would create a huge increase in the overall take up.

Among the surveyed businesses who offered Apprenticeships, 91% reported that their apprentices receive formal training to boost their working-world experience either in the workplace, from an external provider, or both.

Graham Hoyle, Chief Executive of AELP commented, "It is really encouraging that businesses are beginning to understand the value of apprenticeships and further education. The challenge is to ensure that more companies understand that there are apprenticeships and further education courses available across a wide range of business sectors in both manufacturing and services. It is also important to know that further education isnt just for young people; businesses can use the wide range of opportunities available through FE to improve the skills of all their employees and evidence shows that this can produce an excellent return on investment."

The cross-sector group set up to promote further education has recommended that employers make further use of the tools on offer to maximise engagement with further education, whether in their recruitment or in their staff training programmes.

The measures recommended for employers include:
  • Taking advantage of the Apprenticeships scheme and the forthcoming Traineeships, scheduled to be introduced later in 2013. Employers can find out more about Apprenticeships by visiting
  • Contacting your local college to find out more about work based learning, or recruiting people with FE qualifications
To find out more about the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), please visit:

Tweet article
BW on TwitterBW RSS feed