Small and medium-sized agencies are missing out on free recruitment and training if they don’t take advantage of the new apprenticeships regime, an industry provider has warned.

Andrea Fielding, director of TrainingStation, said apprenticeships are a way to introduce the “staff of the future” to the travel industry for little or no cost. Speaking ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (March 5-9), she said: “It’s an easy, free way of getting somebody into the travel industry. They can learn on the job and are provided with knowledge and training while earning a wage.”

Employers with an annual wage bill of less than £3 million do not have to pay the apprenticeship levy and can claim full funding for apprentices aged 16 to 18.

Apprentices aged 19 and over can take the course, but employers must pay 10% of the training fees. This is often used to “upskill” existing staff, said Fielding.

There is also an ongoing £1,000 incentive for businesses to hire 16 to 18-year-old apprentices. It is paid in two £500 instalments and can be spent on anything the business decides.

But Fielding, who was an apprentice travel agent before becoming a store manager aged 20, said there was “a lot of confusion” around apprenticeships in travel. “Employers aren’t always fully aware of what can be offered,” she said. “But it’s really straightforward.”

Apprenticeships can be offered in customer service or as an industry-specific travel consultant level three qualification. The latter is a two-year course that includes modules on geography, industry bodies such as Abta, legislation and regulation.

TrainingStation has offered such courses since May 2017. Fielding added: “We find that in travel, compared with customer service, apprentices really want to learn.”

She said apprenticeships can also be used to train future leaders with the skills needed to become good managers, as opposed to the common practice of promoting a long-serving employee regardless.

“Apprentices are the staff of the future, not just someone to fill a space. They have a thirst for learning. For a small employer, it’s essentially free training, and free recruitment, so we are urging them not to miss the opportunity.”

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