Apprentices to support SME growth - Business Works
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Apprentices to support SME growth

Steve Beahan, Partner, Irwin Mitchell Ambitious SMEs should consider apprenticeship schemes as a way to develop a skilled and loyal workforce and equip themselves for future expansion says Steve Beahan, a partner and member of Irwin Mitchellís small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) group. He believes too many smaller firms still consider that apprenticeship schemes are just for larger organisations. As a result, SMEs are missing out on opportunities to train and secure people with skills which are often not available on the open market.

"Demand for apprenticeship places is as high as ever and Iím sure this year many young people who have just got their A-level results will be keen to explore opportunities within an area of business that interests them, particularly with the increase in University tuition fees to £9000 per year. Apprenticeship schemes have had a renaissance in recent years and can be very broad in areas covered. In my opinion, it is important that SMEs consider it as an option. It can be cost-effective and an excellent way in which to develop a skilled and loyal workforce."

"Recruitment for a fast-growth business is always challenging and can also be expensive, particularly due to the time involved in choosing candidates that may only stay for a year or so. Getting the right mix of skills and attitude can be difficult and sometimes impossible as the requirements can be very specialist. Rather than going for people who are not completely suitable, apprenticeship schemes allow an organisation to build a workforce which suits their needs exactly. The fact that the Government has launched a scheme to allow SMEs to have a greater say in training is a wonderful opportunity for smaller businesses to explore."

cash incentives to help small businesses to take on young apprentices

"The Government is keen to support businesses in this area financially and earlier this year it extended a scheme for SMEs which offers cash incentives to help small businesses to take on young apprentices. In addition to increasing the timeframe, it now allows SMEs to claim for up to ten people. Now is definitely the time to get on board."

Last August, the Government also announced a raft of measures aimed at encouraging smaller firms to offer more apprenticeship schemes. These included the provision of better information and increased availability of training for apprentices, along with an investigation into how SMEs can get a greater say in developing appropriate training provision. The announcement also included plans for making it simpler for SMEs to access funding in order to get apprenticeship schemes off the ground.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), over one million apprentices have trained in the last 10 years. The FSB also claims that currently there are 255,000 16-24 year olds currently on apprenticeship programmes across 160 vocational areas.

Recent research has found that 54% of young people in England want to do an apprenticeship if the opportunity was available. Another survey published this year found that employers find apprentices 15% more employable than young people with other qualifications.

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