Small firms call for apprenticeship incentive extension as starts tumble

Press Releases 26 Aug 2021

Following another annual fall in apprenticeship starts, FSB calls for the apprenticeship incentive to be extended

In response to the publication of statistics on apprenticeships and traineeships in England, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)’s National Chair Mike Cherry commented:

“Whilst the pandemic has understandably had a dampening effect on training efforts, the annual fall in apprenticeship starts is nevertheless very concerning against a backdrop of chronic skills shortages. It is, however, good to see that the rate of reduction in starts has slowed somewhat.

“The numbers lay bare the north-south divide, with a disproportionate fall in apprenticeship starts in the North and the Midlands, and with the North East seeing the largest reduction in percentage terms.

“The £3,000 apprenticeship incentive – set to be withdrawn at the end of September – should be extended as a matter of urgency, to forestall another dip in numbers.

“Equally we have to get the apprenticeship levy system right, to ensure that the funds contributed are shared with firms of all sizes, giving young people the opportunity to gain the hands-on experience and access to leadership that is unique to smaller firms.

“Chronic skills shortages that existed before the pandemic hit have been exacerbated by lockdowns disrupting development, a new immigration system, and a reduction in economic mobility for some workers. In sectors which were particularly hard-hit by lockdowns, many have moved to new areas of employment, leaving a vacuum as those sectors have reopened.

“Close to four in ten small firms now cite skills shortages as a major barrier to growth. As we look to recovery, upskilling young people, who face an incredibly challenging climate, must be a priority for this Government.

“Over the longer term, getting skills development right will require a holistic approach, empowering those in work to take control of professional development and reskilling, while also ensuring that education leavers have a plethora of attractive options – from work placements and qualifications, to apprenticeships, to clear information about career paths and in-demand sectors.”


Notes to Editors

About FSB

As experts in business, FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in Government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. More information is available at You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy.

Media contact

Jo Tacon

Jo Tacon

Media & Communications Officer

[email protected]
07595 284292

About FSB

As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.

FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.