The past five years have seen increasing amounts of investment pumped into Manchester improving infrastructure, boosting the commercial property stock and creating thousands of jobs. As well as going a long way to elevate the number of regular positions available in the North West, it has also led to a huge increase in apprenticeships.
According to the New Economy think tank, more than 30,000 people have gained the title of “apprentice” in Greater Manchester since the end of 2008 – an increase of 141 per cent. This means that apprentices now account for 2.6 per cent of Greater Manchester’s overall workforce, comparing very favourably to the national average of 2.2 per cent.
As well as demonstrating Manchester’s strength for job creation, the rising number of apprenticeships on offer has had a positive impact upon the local economy. New Economy’s Manchester Monitor also highlighted that fewer than 47,000 people in the area claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) as of August 2014, marking a 2,700 decrease, or 5.5 per cent, since July.
Principal for employment and skills at New Economy, Stephen Overell, points out that the JSA figures alone cannot accurately predict the economic position for Manchester’s average worker. However, he highlights the fact that apprentices in Greater Manchester are helping to overturn the traditional stereotypes of the role.
He says; “The ongoing year on year drop in Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants is encouraging, although the impact of Universal Credit on these figures should be taken into account.
“Apprenticeships are growing in popularity and the recent speeches by party leaders suggest they are set to expand much further in the years ahead.
“However, apprentices are changing – although the stereotype is of young men wielding spanners and wearing hard hats, women in care, customer service and administrative roles who are over 25 years old can justifiably claim to be the typical apprentice.”
Apprenticeships are certainly changing in Manchester, as the think tank found that a large number of those taking up a role are not in fact school leavers but workers aged between 30 and 50. Since 2008-2009, the number of apprentices in Greater Manchester over the age of 25 has risen by 446 per cent, with female applicants leading this drive.
Businesses considering launching operations in Manchester should take note of these findings as, along with property rents remaining lower than in cities such as Birmingham and London on average, the boom in apprenticeships indicates that the North West city offers a large supply of skilled workers.
Furthermore, key infrastructure links and the presence of MediaCity in Salford Quays offer numerous networking opportunities for businesses in a variety of industries.
Apprenticeships may not be an indicator of the economic performance of an area but, for businesses willing to invest, they can prove to be beneficial in the long term as this study shows.