Following publication of the Holt Review, the Government will bring in measures to help small businesses recruit apprentices and to overhaul the complex and often misunderstood apprenticeship system. Here are some of the industry reactions to Jason Holt's proposals.
Ian Morris, director at the British Fluid Power Association
“Improving the UK’s apprenticeship regime has to become a greater priority in order to secure the high level of workforce competence needed to secure the best possible future. Raising general awareness about the benefits of apprenticeships is key.
“As well as being enthusiastic advocates of apprenticeship schemes within the manufacturing and engineering sectors, we passionately believe that adequate training provision is critical in order for a company’s workforce to be efficient, safe and legally compliant.
“Many SMEs find apprenticeship guidance too complex. Holt is right in saying that while apprenticeships offer undoubted growth opportunities for businesses, not enough SMEs are taking advantage.”
David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service
“Jason Holt’s review affords us a valuable insight into apprenticeships from the perspective of SMEs. The report has highlighted that we need to make employers more aware of the support available. Listening to what SMEs say means we can be confident that apprenticeship programmes meet their needs. We will simplify the process so that smaller organisations do not feel overwhelmed by bureaucracy.
“This will start with a revised Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) of a single £1,500 payment to help SMEs recruit apprentices. The grant will be available for up to 10 apprentices and medium sized companies with up to 1,000 employees can now benefit.”
Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation
“The manufacturing industry has a long and proud history of investing in apprenticeship programmes, but was disadvantaged by the requirements of the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers scheme. Relaxing the requirements will allow businesses to take on more apprentices. Although the grant is relatively small, it will go some way to incentivising employers to take on an additional young apprentice.
“If the Government is serious about encouraging more young people to undertake apprenticeships, and more employers to offer them, it must address issues such as careers advice, the status of vocational education and the regulatory burden that still prevents many small businesses from taking on apprentices.”
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce
“The BCC will build on its existing work with local schools and the National Apprenticeship Service to ensure young people are able to make informed decisions about their future. Too many young people are left to choose future qualifications without the benefit of high quality careers information and guidance.
“The decision to improve the eligibility criteria for the Apprenticeship Grant will encourage more employers to take on an apprentice. Ministers should go one step further though, and encourage businesses to invest in apprenticeship training for young people who are eligible for Youth Contract wage incentives, by allowing both to be combined. Providing the most vulnerable young people with valued skills and a respected qualification would be something to celebrate.”
Ann Watson, managing director of EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications
“The Holt review flags up important barriers facing SMEs in recruiting apprentices. It is important the guidance available to SMEs is robust and accessible, and more needs to be done to raise boost the profile of apprenticeships in schools.
“It is vitally important that training providers offer the best possible service to both employers and learners, ensuring their learning programmes meet skills needs. EAL works directly with industry employers, advising on apprenticeships to meet specific needs. Working with employers is essential to producing the content of any industry qualification, as this ensures that the skills needs are addressed.”
Jim Bligh, CBI head of labour market policy
“SMEs are a major untapped source of apprenticeships, so it’s good that this review shows how complex the current process has become for smaller firms to deal with. SMEs need better local advice and systems in place which help them get started providing on-the-job training for new apprentices. Making sure SMEs realise the value of taking on apprentices is critical, and incentives like the newly expanded Apprenticeships Grant for Employers can make all the difference.”
Richard Bridgman, chairman of Warren Services and a regional chair of Semta
[on the ‘managed apprenticeship’, developed with JLT Training] “The pilot study that was run in the Midlands, under the Semta Apprenticeship Service, has had better results than anybody else. The colleges and providers are not always doing it efficiently; they are not reaching the companies they are supposed to. This method makes them more accountable to their paymaster.
“In the past, nobody had access to these sorts of things because you had to have a ‘cove’. Let’s say I start my own apprentice school – if approved – Semta would do all the funding, draw it down from government, they will then pay me to deliver their training in my workplace. And we’d provide other companies with training.”
Tony Hubbert, managing director of TF Automation
“It’s frustrating to be ineligible for the AGE grant because we have provided an apprenticeship scheme right through the ‘doldrums’ decades before these came back in vogue. It’s just that we haven’t taken an apprentice on in the eligible period, because I only recruit to synchronise with a pending retirement and we haven’t needed to.
“£1,500 is helpful, but it really won’t offset the cost of a proper Level 3 engineering apprentice in a meaningful way. You should hire an apprentice because your business needs it. It makes more sense to pay the AGE grant, and ideally more than £1,500, at a key stage such as completion of the NVQ Level 2 stage. It’s only after a recruit has reached the end of year 2 that he or she is actually contributing valuably to the business. Receiving the payment then, and another at Level 3 achievement, would make more sense as an incentive.”