Private equity and venture capital-backed businesses from a range of sectors are developing innovative training programs and supporting career progression for staff at all levels, including college leavers, university graduates and adults returning to work.

The BVCA is actively addressing apprenticeship funding reform to ensure future generations can develop essential skills and access opportunities for growth in dynamic companies across the UK.

We interviewed apprentices at private equity and venture capital-backed companies to learn about their experiences working at high-growth businesses in the UK.


“My Danwood apprenticeship really stood out for me. I prefer the hands-on approach to learning. You can find out what the job is actually about. Danwood is a great company to work for.”

– James, ApprenticeService Engineer

“Forrest is a construction company working in the social housing sector. Schemes like ours go right to the need of businesses to design their own programmes and develop the skills they need. We can make a difference for people.”

– Paul, Learning Development Manager

“I’ve learned a lot more working in the industry at Skyscanner than I did at university. You learn on the job and do what the business needs you to do. Since joining the training programme, I have developed a good set of leadership skills.”

– Ryan, Graduate Software Developer

“Working at Unruly is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. As an intern I got to do an actual job. It was a really well-rounded experience.”

– Bui, Account Manager

Investing in growing businesses

Private equity and venture capital firms are invested in growing businesses across the UK which employ around 800,000 Full-Time Equivalent staff. In 2013 alone they provided £4.1bn of funding to 710 British companies. They, therefore, have a substantial interest in the ability of the education and careers system to produce capable and qualified individuals to fill the job vacancies they create.

Closing the skills gap

There has been substantial discussion about the presence of a ‘skills gap’ in the UK. This occurs when the knowledge and abilities of individuals in the labour market fail to match the requirements of employers. Whilst most often discussed in relation to young people, adults may also be unable to find work due to a lack of training in former jobs or structural changes in the local economy. The business community has made its concerns clear, with research carried out for the Prince’s Trust and HSBC finding that 40 per cent of companies are already experiencing skills gaps, with more than half facing difficulties filling vacancies.

Whilst closing the skills gap requires input from a range of participants including educational institutions and career professionals, businesses themselves have a substantial role to play. Through the provision of apprenticeships, internships, graduate schemes and adult upskilling programmes, private companies help transform promising individuals into highly skilled and adept employees. Notably, this relates to more than just technical knowledge, with studies by education provider Kaplan showing that employers place far greater emphasis on ‘soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, in the first two years of employment.

The role of apprenticeships

The Coalition Government has made one of its most substantial legislative interventions in the field of apprenticeships. Following the publication of a review of existing policy by entrepreneur Doug Richard in 2012, changes were proposed to provide employers with control of funding and ensure that apprenticeships were of sufficient length and quality. The BVCA has been heavily engaged in this process, responding to several consultations on the issue, and remains committed to ensuring that apprenticeships operate in a way that provides private equity and venture capital-backed businesses with the employees they need to grow, whilst equipping individuals with invaluable skills that will benefit them throughout their working lives.

Companies backed by private equity and venture capital have developed a range of innovative approaches to training for college leavers, university graduates and adults. Our conversations with these businesses have shown how the funding provided by their backers enables them to invest and place training and development at the core of what they do.

Careers Alliance #futuretalent campaign

Discussions with our members over the past year have repeatedly highlighted concerns regarding a lack of soft skills, poor careers advice and the low uptake of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). With this in mind, the BVCA has added its support to the Careers Alliance #futuretalent campaign.

Backed by over 50 employers, professional bodies and educational organizations including Atkins, Deloitte, Siemens and the Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards, #futuretalent represents a broad coalition seeking to foster collaborative action between professional careers advisers, employers, schools and colleges. It asserts that long-term skills gaps can only be tackled if these parties work together to develop learning outcomes that ensure the best transition into the world of work for young people. This effort is vital to enable growing businesses to make their full contribution to the UK’s continued economic growth.

#futuretalent aims to:

  • Highlight the importance of careers education and guidance in schools and colleges.
  • Frame employer contributions as part of professionally managed careers programmes and not as ad hoc initiatives.
  • Affirm that, working together within a planned careers programme, employers and career professionals can provide far more effective help to young people than either could do on their own.

Our recent report written in partnership with the RSA City Growth Commission, Universities: the knowledge to power UK metros, emphasises the importance of a joined-up approach to careers guidance. A key recommendation is for local authorities and agencies to work with universities to support graduates in the transition to work by offering advice and matching them to appropriate employment and volunteering opportunities.