Apprentices delivered around £1.8 billion of net economic benefits to UK organisations last year according to the latest research from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the UK’s leading qualification and membership body for accounting staff. The report compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that apprentices offer UK businesses a significant return on their investment, with economic output often exceeding average wage and training costs.

The research report The Value of Apprentices presents a compelling case for organisations to take on even one apprentice: every time they do they receive, on average, a bottom-line boost of more than £2,000 once wage and training costs have been factored in.

Crucially, the research highlights that businesses don’t have to wait in order to realise the financial gain of hiring an apprentice, with many companies enjoying economic benefits while their apprentice is still in training. Once the apprentice is fully qualified employers can expect to see further productivity improvements while apprentices can expect to benefit from increased earnings potential.

The latest findings are validated by recent research from The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (August 2013), in which high percentages of employers reported numerous benefits from hiring apprentices, including improved product and service quality (72 per cent), enhanced productivity (68 per cent) and even increased morale and organisational reputation.

However, despite these encouraging findings, the research also highlights that a lack of awareness of the Government’s apprenticeship offer and its benefits, particularly amongst smaller companies, means that many organisations are currently missing out.  Around 60 per cent of small businesses surveyed as part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ August 2013 research were found to be lacking a basic knowledge of the Government’s programme and the support available such as subsidies and expert advice.

Commenting on the research, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Delivering the best skills is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan for Britain. More apprenticeships mean more opportunities for young people, giving them financial security and Britain a better future”.

Jane Scott Paul, Chief Executive of AAT said: “Take-up of apprenticeship schemes has grown sharply over the past five years, as more and more organisations enjoy the benefits that apprentices can bring to the workplace; this is benefitting their business and bolstering economic recovery and growth.

“We now need to do more to engage with smaller businesses – to break down the misconceptions and make it easier for smaller enterprises to unlock the full potential of training apprentices on the job and to gain specific skills relevant to their business. Our research clearly reveals that apprentices far from being a cost to business are often a tangible benefit and, what’s more, they’re flourishing in non-traditional sectors such as business, administration and law.  By quantifying the value of apprenticeships in this way we hope to encourage all sectors of business to open up their recruitment policies and address the skill shortage.”