Apprenticeships have moved beyond an issue for large corporates’ CSR teams and into the mainstream for businesses of any size looking for top talent, according to parliament’s apprenticeship ambassador Andrew Jones MP.
Speaking at the Made By Apprentices event during National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), Jones told delegates he saw apprentices increasingly as a key part of talent and growth strategies for small businesses.
“Every year NAW gets bigger and better, which I think reflects the need for skills in our workforce and also the way apprenticeships have come to be seen as the vehicle to deliver those skills,” he said.
“The agenda has moved on greatly during this parliament. Before, when I spoke to business about apprenticeships I would invariably be speaking with the CSR department of big enterprises. Now apprenticeships are seen as a key part in talent and growth programmes in any business.”
But despite the progress made, Jones warned there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the message about the benefits of apprentices is reaching all parts of the SME community.
“There are more companies that have not started apprenticeship programmes than have – far more so,” he said. “This is particularly true in the SME sector.”
Speaking at the same event, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) president Nora Senior highlighted figures compiled by organisation that reveal 44% of their members have taking on an apprentice as part of their five-year growth plan. She also pointed to the fact that 54% of members would consider taking on an apprentice if funding for training and development were available.
“So BCC is actively lobbying to ensure the £1,500 apprenticeship grant for employers is extended beyond its 26-day deadline,” she said. “Also, for any SME that has not taken on an apprentice, BCC can act as the front-door to helping you.
“Many chambers are running programmes looking at skills audits for companies who want to take on apprentices. They will help you identify your skills gap and help match you up with other services such as the National Apprenticeship Service.”
Federation of Small Business (FSB) policy group chair for education, skills and employment support David Pollard called small businesses “vital to the future success and sustainability of apprenticeships”.
But he warned that as 3.8 million of the 5 million small business in the UK don’t currently don’t employ anyone, “they are unlikely to take on an apprentice as their first employee”.
“But there are notable exceptions to that rule. David [Holt, apprenticeship ambassador and CEO of The Holt Group] took on an apprentice as his first employee. He actually ended up building the website and took the company on to social media, as well as getting a master-class on how to run a business.”
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