Popularity of apprenticeships has grown over the past two years but with less than a quarter of SME’s employing an apprentice, what is putting businesses off?
Last Thursday saw the release of this year’s GCSE results and set the ball rolling for school-leavers to consider their next move in education and training. Could an apprenticeship scheme be the way forward for some?
In the past two years the UK has seen a rise in the number of school-leavers who have pursed an apprenticeship scheme.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, the number of 19 year-olds starting an apprenticeship increased by 5.1% on the previous year. But with less than a quarter of small and medium size businesses (SME’s) employing an apprentice, many are looking for further clarity as to why more businesses are not implementing such a scheme.
The apprenticeship levy
According to a recent report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), there are around a million apprentices in the UK. The report states there is the potential to double this figure if the issues of costs and easy access to relevant information about apprenticeships were addressed.
Shortly after the FSB report was published, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced their two initiatives which addressed both points raised by the FSB in their report.
Small businesses with under 50 employees, who take on 16 to18 year-old apprentices, will now be given a cash incentive of £1,000 per apprentice and will pay nothing towards the costs of their training.
“It is a positive step that small employers will be protected from making payments when they take on an employee who is 16 to 18-years-old,” Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) explains.
“This will create more opportunities for people in these ‘vulnerable’ groups. However, we need to study the details and consult with our member colleges to understand fully the possible consequences of the rules around the apprenticeship levy.”
The next steps
The government will also be creating an apprenticeship investment calculator on their website, allowing small businesses to understand what the potential costs and benefits might be
However, the FSB wants to see more practical advice on apprenticeships which is tailored and based around the needs, experience and recommendations of small businesses themselves.
“In particular, small businesses said the government’s apprenticeships website didn’t really speak to them. They want almost a step-by-step guide.” Annie Peate, policy advisor in education and skills at the FSB and author of the report explained.
“The message that came through from the respondees in our report was that they understand the business benefits, but they need to know how it all works and, crucially, where they start – because once they’ve switched off [from the idea of getting an apprentice], it’s very difficult to get them back.”
Making apprenticeships work
So how can small business make apprentices work? Petra Wilson, director of strategy and external affairs at the Chartered Management Institute believes a close partnership with the training provider and carefully supervising the apprentice is the winning formulae.
Having an apprentice is not a quick win and regular feedback on the apprentice’s performance is key, explains Wilton.
“You need to be aware of the management time, which is needed to support an apprentice, and you do need to commit resources to support them. But that’s generally hugely outweighed by the benefit. In the medium and longer term, apprentices can add real value back to the business.”