GUEST COLUMN: Why every jeweller needs to have an apprentice


Professional Jeweller has asked Ben Drew, head of business development at the British Academy of Jewellery, why he believes everyone in the jewellery industry should be taking on an apprentice.

Get a modern perspective and embrace digital

Apprentices bring new ideas, creativity and enthusiasm into any organisation.  Having high-energy and new blood within the business can offer fresh prospective on things to grow your business and get to know your next generation of clients.

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In the modern world of business, it is more important than ever to have an online presence and particularly for jewellery, embrace modern production methods.

Many employers are finding that offering apprenticeships can fill a digital skills gap in their organisation, with digitally ‘savvy’ minds helping them stay on top of the digital trends that will benefit their business.

One of our goals at BAJ to really drive the future of industry innovation. As educators, we have a responsibility to pioneer and lead the way into the future. We train our students and apprentices in traditional jewellery methods, so they have the ability to then challenge them, and find ways to innovate through modern technology.

We pride ourselves on being on of the only providers of specialised jewellery CAD courses in the country. BAJ’s selection of diploma and short courses cover some of the most popular jewellery CAD softwares such as Matrix, Rhino and 3Design… we even teach ZBrush, a CAD software that’s actually used in film productions. It is a fantastic software for brands who use a lot of texture within their jewellery designs.

But I think the industry is now beginning to realise that whilst the CAD software itself is an investment, the quality, precision, cost-effectivess and actually the ease in using the software today makes it completely worth it. We are definitely noticing a lot more interest in our CAD courses from members of the trade!

Support the future of jewellery

Throughout history, craft has been something that has been passed down from generation to generation. Whilst as educators, we have a duty to train and nurture a creative pool of jewellery talent, we believe it is a shared responsibility.

If you look at the industry collectively, there is hundred’s of year’s worth of experience and techniques alive and breathing today  – who better to teach the jewellery craft then the craftsmen themselves?

At the BAJ, we feel it is very important for the trade to be involved with how jewellery savoir-faire is taught and developed. We seek to create the next generation of jewellers who have the aptitude to carry the torch and grow the UK jewellery industry.

We have two campuses – one in London’s Hatton Garden, and the other in Birmingham’s Assay Office – to maintain our close ties with the trade, and foster a network of support and collaboration. We hope to build the UK’s global reputation for skilled artisans and designers – but we need the industry’s help to do that.

Think today about what you are doing to protect the future of the industry… take an apprentice, host a workshop master-class, sponsor a student competition – there are so many ways you can work with BAJ to support the future of the industry, today.

Maximise the opportunity with the Apprenticeship Levy

The Apprenticeship Levy is a fantastic opportunity for all jewellery businesses. The government is creating an opportunity and funding to create a culture of training and growth within all UK industries.

The funding that the levy provides can be spent on everything to do with apprenticeship training except the salary – but the funding is also not limited to novices!

To explain how the levy works, there is currently a large craft skills gap in the UK versus the EU. Craft education is in decline, and almost 3,000 jewellery businesses struggle to recruit staff due to a lack of specialist skills and experience.

To address this, the Government is seeking to improve the quality and practicality of apprenticeships by introducing new standards set by the industry and employers – and hopes to have three million new apprentices by 2020.

To do this, the government is now asking all UK businesses to invest in UK apprenticeships in the form of the Levy.

For the levy there are two different options for the UK jewellery industry, depending on whether your wage bill for your staff based in England is over £3 million.

  1. If your business is over the £3m threshold, you will pay 0.5% of your England-based wage bill in monthly payments towards the Levy funding. However, that money will be uploaded onto an account on a digital apprenticeship service site where you will be able to pay training      providers for apprenticeship courses and materials. Of the 0.5% paid, you get a contribution allowance of £15,000 deducted from the final total. You will also be able to spend the full amount you have paid, and government may add an additional 10% top to the amount.
  1. If you are under the £3m threshold, you do not pay a levy, but will enter a co-fund agreement where the government will pay 90% of the apprenticeship levy funding and you will contribute 10% towards the training scheme. You will also be able to access the funding through the same digital portal.

Depending on the type of apprenticeship there is different bands of government funding available which is slightly more complex, but if you would like to find out in more detail how the levy works, please book a free consultation with our team at BAJ to see how your business may be affected.

Tags : apprenticesApprenticeship levyBAJBen DrewBritish Academy of Jewellersuk jewellery industry

The author Stacey Hailes

Editor, Professional Jeweller


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