Ahead of National Apprenticeships Week, the team at Barnsley College share with unLTD how apprenticeships allow young people to develop their potential and enter the workforce earlier – and look ahead to their own events during the week, too 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the labour market, job prospects for young people aged 16-24 remain an increasing cause for concern, whilst the Office for National Statistics reports that the national economy faces a record-breaking jobs crisis.[1]

Analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies[2] reinforces this fact, painting a bleak picture for several groups within society who are hardest hit by sector shut downs during the pandemic. Those aged under 25 are 2.5 times more likely to work in a shut down sector than other employees, whilst low skilled, low earners are seven times as likely as high earners to work in such a sector.

To support the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic, the Government launched its ‘Plan For Jobs’[3] in July 2020. This acknowledged that these groups are amongst the hardest hit and promotes a raft of initiatives and incentives to protect them from long-term unemployment. An investment of £1.6 billion is aimed at scaling up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships, to help society’s most vulnerable onto the career ladder. Last month’s ‘Skills for Jobs’[4] white paper puts even greater emphasis onto the conversation around skills, strategic support to employers and co-developing future technical education; the green economy and the levelling up agenda.

Until the end of March, employers may be awarded funding of £2,000 for hiring new apprentices aged 16-24 years, or £1,500 for those aged 25 and older. This is in addition to the existing £1,000 grant that can be obtained by employers who hire an apprentice aged 16-18 years, or those under 25 years who have an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) or are in local authority care.

Apprenticeships allow young people to develop their potential and enter the workforce earlier, whilst employers benefit from access to the next generation of talent. Those new apprentices are immersed in their employer’s culture and practices whilst they earn a wage and learn essential skills, knowledge and behaviours to invest back into the business.

In fact, the benefits to both apprentice and employer stretch much further than this. That is reflected in the fact that employers in England got 271,900[5] apprenticeships underway in the first nine months of the 2019/20 academic year, despite the economic turmoil inflicted by COVID-19.

Those aged 25 and over made-up 44.7 per cent[4] of those apprenticeship starts, demonstrating that employers value apprenticeships not only for growing their workforce by recruiting school leavers, but also to upskill those members of their team who are more experienced or qualified. The majority of those older apprentices are likely to be studying apprenticeships up to Level 7 (university/degree level qualifications).

Barnsley College supports around 1,500 employers across Yorkshire and even more beyond, with a growing team and portfolio of training programmes and qualifications which is designed to support the entire workforce development strategy.

The College is rated outstanding by Ofsted and employs a dedicated Business Development team to work with employers, identifying talent to nurture and skills gaps to fill, whilst also supporting succession planning for key roles.

Barnsley-based XPO Logistics supports new and existing employees to achieve the Level 2 Supply Chain Warehouse Operative Apprenticeship Standard with Barnsley College. Florin Florea, apprentice co-ordinator at the firm, said: “The apprenticeship helps us to retain talent and it often propels an existing employee into a different role that offers them new challenges and greater fulfilment. Others are very happy to return to the same job and they give back more to the business having become more qualified, knowledgeable, and skilled. Over time, we are nurturing the development of our whole workforce so that each colleague is multi-skilled and has an in-depth understanding of the core business.”

Barnsley College offers more than 70 apprenticeship pathways from Level 2 to Level 7. These serve a multitude of job roles and sectors from Accountancy, Construction and Beauty Therapy to Management, Teaching and Warehousing and Logistics. Historically, the College has enjoyed apprenticeship success rates above the national average.

Angela Kerley, assistant principal – apprenticeships at Barnsley College, said: “Our team has recently extended to Shropshire and the West Midlands, where we have a locally based apprenticeship team and training facilities to serve a growing regional client base. Additionally, our acquisition of Independent Training Services Ltd./SmartStyle Training Ltd. (ITS) extends our reach to employers, apprentices and students in the North West and East Midlands regions.

“Our resources and provision are continually evolving and improving with the addition of T Levels (Technical qualifications) and content to our curriculum that will prepare our apprentices and students for an increasingly digitised world. We continue to invest heavily in our estate and facilities, having most recently transformed our SciTech Campus into the Digital Innovation Hub which opened its doors in September 2020.”

Investment in the College’s digital curriculum is aligned with Barnsley’s ‘TechTown Five Year Action Plan.’ This aims to create ‘more and better jobs’ and businesses by promoting the acquisition of digital skills, digital entrepreneurship and the use of digital technology to transform existing businesses, all towards addressing the digital skills gap which threatens to cost the UK economy over £100billion in GDP growth. Apprenticeships added to the curriculum cover areas such as Digital Marketing, Cyber Security, Data Analysis, Software Development and Network Engineering.

Barnsley College will be hosting virtual events during National Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February) which will cover benefits to businesses, courses offered, positives of studying, how to apply, finance and funding and more.

Register atbarnsley.ac.uk/eventsor find out about workforce development from Barnsley College at barnsley.ac.uk/employers



  1. ‘Employment in the UK: January 2021’ (Office for National Statistics)
  2. ‘Sector Shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis: which workers are most exposed?’ (Institute for Fiscal Studies)
  3. ‘Plan for Jobs’ (Gov.uk)
  4. Skills for Jobs’ (Gov.uk)
  5. ‘Apprenticeships and Traineeships, England