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11 August 2016

Small firms could deliver a million more apprenticeships

A new FSB report has found the small business sector in England has the potential to double the number of apprentices they take on to well over two million, if the Government can get the incentives and package of support right.

One in four FSB members already employ an apprentice, but a further quarter would consider taking one on in the future. If this reflects the situation of the rest of England’s 4.7 million small firms, there is potential to deliver well over a million new apprenticeships with smaller employers.


FSB said apprenticeship reform at a make-or-break moment, with small firms critical to achieving the Government’s target of reaching three million new apprentices by 2020. The report clearly demonstrates the potential of small firms to help meet the target, but also presents some major challenges which need to be addressed to achieve it.

“Smaller businesses are taking on more apprentices than ever before. What’s more, a quarter of our members say they are considering employing an apprentice in the future. This presents a huge opportunity and is great news for vocational training, which has become an increasingly attractive option for young people put off by the rising cost and uncertain returns of a university degree," said Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman. 

“We are at a make-or-break moment. We need the Government to hit the right balance between incentives and support. While many small firms are committed to apprenticeships, many more continue to be worried about the time and personal commitment required.

FSB’s evidence found that small businesses are most likely to recruit apprentices from outside the business, with 79 per cent of FSB members’ recruiting externally. FSB also found that apprenticeships in two thirds of small business lead to longer-term employment once training is complete. These finding show smaller businesses are providing a reliable pathway into full time employment for their apprentices.


Cost-effectiveness was cited as a key reason for taking on an apprentice, but increased financial burden risks many abandoning apprenticeships altogether. FSB’s research also found another key motivator for smaller employers was a commitment to giving young people training opportunities.

Challenges to taking on an apprentice included a perception that school leavers did not have the skills businesses’ need, with 32 per cent saying the quality of apprentices was a major challenge. A third worry about the day to day management on top of other business commitments. Over a quarter (26%) said they lacked the time needed to properly train an apprentice.

Mike Cherry continued: “Ministers need to focus on three main areas: more targeted and localised information for businesses with high growth potential, specific and practical guidance on how a smaller company can take on an apprentice, and a more generous package of incentives and support for those which do. Getting this right is key to the successful reform of the apprenticeship system.”


Lobbying & Campaigning from FSB

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