How apprentices are shaping the future of betting and gaming

This blog was originally posted on PoliticsHome

Our members in the regulated betting and gaming industry know the true value of apprenticeships, and just as importantly of training, if they are to recruit the best new employees and develop existing workforces.

And with 110,000 jobs in the industry across the UK, I am confident we can compete with any sector when it comes to the vast array of opportunities on offer. From the high streets, to leisure and tourism through world class casinos, to the very cutting edge of technological development, our members offer an incredible array of career prospects.

As businesses from all over the country mark National Apprenticeship Week this week, I am proud to highlight the work our members have done, and continue to do, in this vital area. Perhaps our biggest commitment is the pledge from BGC members to create 5,000 new apprenticeships by 2025. This is not a handout, it’s an invitation to draw in the best talent on offer. And those apprentices, wherever they join the regulated betting and gaming sector, can be confident of adding to a diverse workforce, where they can thrive.

According to recent data, 19 per cent of our member’s workforce is under the age of 25 and over half is under 35-years-old. Compare that to the rest of society, where the figures are 11 per cent for under 25’s and 35 per cent for under 35’s respectively. Meanwhile a third of all those employed in managerial roles are women.

Our members can offer these opportunities because our members are global leaders in the truest sense of the word. As well as supporting over 100,000 jobs, regulated betting and gaming generates £7.1bn for the economy, while raising £4.2bn in taxes to fund frontline services. Our members invest millions towards training and development, which ensures new and existing staff are getting the support they need to close skills gaps in whatever area they are working in.

To give some examples, our online members offer technology graduate programmes, taking graduates with any degree and re-training them to become software engineers. They proactively target women and those from under-represented groups to boost workplace diversity. Retention rates are extremely high, over 80 percent are still within the business twelve months after graduating, despite a highly competitive technology market.

Tech boot camps are another vital tool, giving both young and old employees the opportunity to move from non-tech to tech roles. These boot camps help create diversity, as an increasing number of women and those from under-represented groups use them to re-train into tech.

Encouraging diversity is clearly an issue for all businesses, but it is worth noting that just 26 per cent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) graduates are women, and in the workforce, that falls to 24 per cent. There is an urgent need to change the perception of careers in STEM if we are to have the highly trained workforce the UK needs. Entain’s partnership with car manufacturer McLaren is just one example of the work they are doing in this area.

This week saw a call by the leisure and hospitality industry, retail and major manufacturers, for changes to the Apprenticeship Levy to make it more flexible. This is very much supported by our members. At the moment companies can only draw down their levy to pay for apprenticeships if the course is over a year and for very specific rolls with training which often does not fit with the requirements of the business.

Shorter courses, such as those used by casinos at a regional level and ‘boot camps’ or other programmes which help to recruit under-represented groups, such as older workers wanting to retrain, is needed, along with a greater range of qualifications for which the levy can be used.

The CBI proposed broadening the Apprenticeship Levy into a ‘Flexible Skills Levy’ to cover a wider range of high quality, relevant training which the betting and gaming sector would very much support.

Of course, this investment in jobs and skills is only possible with a mature, well-regulated sector. This week Lucy Frazer became the new Secretary of State in charge of the department overseeing the long awaited Gambling White Paper.

We support big changes in the regulated industry, but any changes must be balanced and proportionate, with targeted measures focused on the very small numbers who are at risk and vulnerable, and not force punters to the unsafe, unregulated gambling black market, which cares not a jot for safer gambling, doesn’t support jobs, does not raise taxes, and certainly does not have apprenticeship programs.

I am proud to say, our members do this, while catering for around 22.5m adults in the UK who enjoy a bet each month. And this is achieved while keeping problem gambling rates at incredibly low rates by international standards, currently at 0.3 per cent according to the Gambling Commission, down from 0.4 per cent last year.

I can say with certainty, apprentices are contributing in countless ways across a myriad of roles and responsibilities with our members. This is a sector which is keen to grow, to carry on delivering that economic contribution to UK Plc. As we await the Government’s White Paper on gambling reform, I trust Ministers recognise this vital contribution and the role apprentices play within it. As we mark National Apprenticeship Week, I’m proud of the work we are already doing and continue to do, to ensure apprentices have the opportunity to flourish.

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