EAL reveals micro business apprenticeships are struggling

EAL, the Semta awarding body for engineering qualifications, has found that economic concerns are preventing micro businesses for taking on apprentices.

Following a recent EAL survey of 500 managing directors and HR leaders in manufacturing, construction and logistics firms it was revealed that over half of those falling into the micro business category said that current economic conditions were preventing them from taking an apprentice on.

Economic concerns were less potent for small, medium and large firms however. Only between 14 and 25% of respondents in these categories named economic worries as a reason for not taking on an apprentice.

Ann Watson, managing director of EAL, said: “It is worrying that over half of micro employers are limiting or not recruiting apprentices because of the economic situation. They make up around ninety per cent of all businesses in England and Wales – a huge market for apprenticeship programmes and vitally important in helping to reduce spiralling unemployment figures.”

While acknowledging government initiative like the £1,500 incentive for businesses of up to 50 employees to take on and apprentice, Ms Watson said that more support was needed for micro firms as well as greater clarification of the benefits of apprenticeships for employers.

Worryingly for EAL a common feeling among businesses of all sizes was that apprenticeships are “nice to have” but unaffordable. Over 45% of micro employers, 29% of small, 37% of medium, 32% of large and 19% of macro all agreed with this.

Bob Millington, director of National Liaison and Regional Coordination for the National Forum of Engineering Centres, a membership organisation of over 100 engineering education providers, believes a new learning pathway is required to boost micro business participation in apprenticeship programmes.

He said: “The fact that micro businesses have been hit hardest in terms of apprenticeship provision doesn’t surprise me in the least.

“It’s very difficult for micro businesses to take on an apprentice because  they are a large investment, relative to the size of the company and it is an additional workload for a company that only has, say, ten employees or so. Micro businesses could be helped and possibly persuaded to take on an apprentice if the person they were employing had already been prepared to a certain level.”

Mr Millington said that National Liaison is working nationally to raise the profile of a pre-apprenticeship programme which would qualify potential apprenticeship applicants to an NVQ level 2, helping to ensure confidence, work ethic and technical ability in applicants and protect the interests of very small employers.