At the beginning of Apprenticeships Week, FSB Wales has called on Welsh Government to look at how more SMEs can be supported to take on apprentices in the future.
Recruitment expectations of Welsh firms have been significantly dampened by the pandemic. Recent FSB research found that one in five firms reduced headcounts in three months to December and one in seven expect to do so this quarter – this is a stark demonstration of the decisions that businesses are facing in the coming months.
It also makes clear the need for Welsh Government to focus on how SMEs can be empowered and incentivised to take on apprentices which offer opportunities to young people as well as to the development and growth of a business.
In its manifesto for the Senedd elections, Our Business is Wales – FSB’s vision for 2021 – 2026 Wales’ largest business organisation has called on Welsh Government to support those firms thinking of taking on an apprentice.
The manifesto calls for a new scheme in the next Welsh Parliament (learning from Jobs Growth Wales and the Young Recruits Programme) which should focus on helping with the recruitment process and covering the financial risk of employing additional apprentices. Over the longer-term, a permanent scheme could be developed that reflects the broader economic development strategy in Wales, for instance by supporting skills in areas of growth such as decarbonisation.
Secondly, the manifesto argues that better links with schools should be part of a national ambition to provide windows to students of different kinds of post-education opportunities and how they can get there.
Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:
“Apprenticeships Week is an opportunity to highlight the hugely positive role that apprentices play within SMEs, helping businesses to grow and expand whilst providing vital on-the-job training.
“We know that the coming months are going to be difficult for businesses and many will be seeking to consolidate what they have rather than risk looking at recruitment at such an unsettled time for the economy. This could have negative long-term impacts if we do not find a way to support firms to build back from the pandemic and feel confident enough to recruit.
“We also know that the Welsh Government apprenticeship support – announced in response to the pandemic - is coming to an end shortly. It is FSB’s view that now is not the time to restrict access to support to take on apprentices. Welsh Government should commit to continuing this support up to the election and the next Welsh Government should implement a new scheme that will support SMEs and apprentices in the longer term.
“Our recommendations for a way forward for apprenticeships in Wales are based on an understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and how businesses can be supported in the longer term.”
Terry Edwards of John Weaver Contractors, a firm that has worked with apprentices, said:
“Every successful business model is built upon having great people employed within that can be moulded into the way we work.
“At John Weaver Contractors we are very passionate about continually improving the knowledge base of our people and we have a real focus and drive to invest in new entrants and young talent coming into the construction industry and in doing so we offer a career of a lifetime.
“We understand how important it is to develop & train the future generations in order to close the skills gaps within our industry. As a well-established SME, based in in Wales, we continually need the support of Welsh Government so that we can maintain our business succession planning by employing new apprenticeships each year and for us to stay focused in our mentoring of the future generations by engaging with the schools and colleges in Wales to encourage young people to enter the construction industry.”