Apprenticeships report leads to new government initiatives

The government is set to ramp up its support for small businesses which take on apprentices following a report from entrepreneur Jason Holt.

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are set to reap the backing of the government, with the coalition set to act on recommendations made by Holt who says that SMEs have an ‘outdated’ view of the apprenticeship process.

Back in February, the Education and Business Secretaries commissioned Holt to conduct a study on what more could be done to help SMEs take on apprentices.

Holt, a jeweller and social entrepreneur, finds that there is a lack of awareness among small businesses about the benefits of taking on apprentices and how to recruit and train them.

Following Holt’s publication, the government will now work with the kind of individuals that SMEs look to for advice (namely lawyers and accountants) in an effort to get them to promote the virtues of taking on apprentices.

Furthermore, the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers will be simplified and made more accessible to employers. The grant will now be made in a single payment instead of two installments and employers will be allowed to claim grants to support up to ten new apprentices.

Medium sized firms will continue to be eligible to claim the grant even if the 250 employee threshold is exceeded. The scheme is now open to employers with up to 1,000 staff.

The announcement was made at PK Automotive in Lincoln which is set to be awarded a grant of £1,500 per apprentice as part of the grant programme. The automotive company is taking on its first apprentices.

Holt’s recommendations also mean that the government will help SMEs to get apprentices the training they need by providing better information on availability and looking at how to give them a greater say in developing the skills they need.

Business secretary Vince Cable says that only a small minority of SMEs currently employ apprentices, with many missing out on an ‘effective’ way of growing and up-skilling the business.

He adds, ‘We hope that the measures announced today will make a difference by raising awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships amongst SMEs and making it as easy as possible for these businesses to take on an apprentice.’

Holt comments, ‘Whilst apprenticeships offer undoubted growth opportunities for businesses, not enough SMEs are taking advantage.

‘This is because they have an outdated view of apprenticeships, are often in the dark, and frequently do not receive the specific training provision their apprentices need.’