Small business organisation tells government how to encourage apprenticeships

THE Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is urging the government to lift the barriers to employment that stifle job creation to enable them to take on apprentices of all ages.

More than two thirds (69 per cent) of apprenticeships take place in small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees. The FSB believes that the government can do five things to ensure that this figure is even higher as the government looks to the private sector to help strengthen the economy.

The FSB is calling on the government to:

·        Incentivise micro-businesses to take on apprentices through providing allocated funding and financial incentives – 37 per cent said this would help them take an apprentice on;

·        Make small businesses exempt from the ‘Time to Train’ legislation, due to come into force in April 2011, to encourage firms to take on more staff and show the UK is open for business;

·        Give greater nationwide promotion of the Apprenticeship Training Agencies to help small businesses overcome the bureaucracy and red tape of taking on an employee;

·        Enable small firms to access apprentices through the supply chain if the business is trying to access a public sector contract;

·         Recognise that Group Training Associations provide an effective route for small employers to train apprentices and staff to their own requirements, and to ensure that Local Enterprise Partnerships work with these partners.

Amrita Parker, Peterborough Branch Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said, “Apprenticeships are valued very highly by small businesses, but Government must recognise that it is the burden of employment law combined with a lack of information and guidance that stops small firms from taking an apprentice on.

“With recent unemployment figures showing that the total number of under-25s out of work reached 951,000 in the three months to November, it is time for action.

“We recognise that at a time of austerity not all businesses can receive financial incentives to take on an apprentice and that is why we are urging the Government to ensure that the smallest, micro-businesses still receive funding.

“We also want to see the Time to Train legislation – due to come into force from April this year – scrapped for the smallest firms, as it just adds to the already burdensome employment legislation that a company has to get to grips with.”

John McNamara, chief executive, Alliance of Sector Skills councils, said, “Sector Skills Councils, as developers and issuers of Apprenticeship frameworks, recognise the importance of making it easier for small firms to recruit and train apprentices. All the research undertaken by the National Apprenticeship Service and the 23 Sector Skills Councils indicates that apprentices are a first class investment for a small business, in terms of profitability, improved customer service, and staff retention rates.

“We support the FSBs call for extra help to enable small businesses to take on more Apprentices, and in particular, see Group Training Associations as a highly effective way to provide support for small employers.”

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