SMEs set to recruit over 200,000 apprentices

New government figures published today reveal that SMEs are predicted to recruit 202,000 new apprentices over the coming 12 months, largely because of the recognised benefits they bring to a business.

The data shows that SMEs (businesses with 1 – 249 employees) are keen to hire apprentices for both their enthusiasm, as well as the business benefits that come with the ability to mould staff to suit employer needs and future proof the workforce.

It also highlights the many benefits that SME firms with apprentices have experienced. For example, more than 24,000 private sector SMEs reported that hiring an apprentice has actually helped them win business.

More widely, 74% of SMEs that employ apprentices report increased productivity thanks to apprenticeships with product / service improvement and nearly all (96%) report at least one business benefit to hiring an apprentice.

However, there is still more that needs to be done to ensure employers of all sizes gain the skills they need for their workforce. Almost three quarters of SMEs still remain to be convinced about the merits of taking on an apprentice.

Growing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships offered is also an essential part of the government’s newly published Industrial Strategy Green Paper. Skills is one of the key pillars of this plan, and a new offer on the area will be fundamental to driving increases in productivity across the country, improving social mobility and making a success of Brexit.

To address this, the government has today launched a new wave of its Get In Go Far campaign featuring four SMEs who describe the benefits of apprenticeships to their organisations. This is in advance of a new STEP Support, Teen Grant, Entrepreneur Offer, Provision for additional support –  funding offer becoming available to SMEs from 1 May, 2017.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfon explained: “We know that apprenticeships give people of all ages and all backgrounds the skills they need to succeed. That is why more than 90% of apprentices stay in employment after their scheme ends.

“It’s fantastic to see so many SMEs are already taking advantage of the programme ensuring they get the workforce they require, but we must do more to encourage other SMEs to come on board and hire apprentices. The Get In Go Far campaign, launching today, is key to both persuading more SMEs of the benefits of apprenticeships and inspiring more young people to climb the ladder of opportunity by becoming an apprentice.

Oliver Mangham, applications director at Fairfield Control Systems, who himself started as an apprentice and who features in the new campaign, commented: “As a small business we rely on a small team of highly-skilled workers. Good, well-rounded engineers are hard to come by and apprenticeships give us a competitive edge by providing the valuable opportunity to train young people the way we want them to be trained from the beginning.

“Our industry requires a high level of innovation and our apprentices bring new ideas, a great spirit, and bundles of enthusiasm. After 17 years working with apprenticeships we know that continuing to invest in and develop local talent is essential to the continued success of our business.”