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21 September 2016

Small firms could deliver many more apprenticeships says FSB

A report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found the small business sector has the potential to double the number of apprentices they take on, if the Government put in place the right measures to make apprenticeships work for them.

The report found apprenticeship reform at a make-or-break moment, with small firms critical to achieving the Government's target of reaching three million new apprentices by 2020. The report clearly demonstrates the potential of small firms to help meet the target, but also presents some major challenges which need to be addressed to achieve it.

The FSB report, 'Make or Break: Getting apprenticeship reform right for small businesses,' found that one in four FSB members already employ an apprentice, but a further quarter would consider taking one on in the future.

Among the barriers to achieving this, is a change which requires small businesses to contribute towards the cost of training their apprentice. This is expected to result in a fall in the number of businesses offering apprenticeships. To limit this, FSB is calling on the Government to provide a more generous small employer incentive than is currently proposed. This will ensure extra support is appropriately targeted at the small businesses that can least afford the extra upfront costs of taking on an apprentice.

Alan Todd, branch chairman for FSB Greater Cambridgeshire said: "Smaller businesses are taking on more apprentices than ever before. What's more, a quarter of our members say they are considering employing an apprentice in the future. This presents a huge opportunity and is great news for vocational training, which has become an increasingly attractive option for young people put off by the rising cost and uncertain returns of a university degree.

He continued: "We are at a make-or-break moment. We need the Government to hit the right balance between incentives and support. While many small firms are committed to apprenticeships, many more continue to be worried about the time and personal commitment required.

"Government needs to focus on a more targeted and localised information for businesses, specific and practical guidance on how small businesses can take on an apprentice and a more generous package of incentives and support for those which do."

FSB member Glenn Foulger who runs Foulger's DAF near Royston, a truck repair and parts centre said: "My apprentice has been great for my business, however it has not been plain sailing, taking on an apprentice takes a lot of commitment from both the young person and the employer."

Glenn has just taken on a new apprentice after his former apprentice Dylan Whale completed his apprenticeship and is still working for the firm. He continued: "If the Government wants to fulfil its target, it is going to have to put together the right package of support and incentives. This will help to make taking on an apprentice the better alternative."

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