Why Small Businesses Should Hire Apprentices

We recently conducted some research with small business owners to understand their attitudes towards hiring apprentices following the government’s appointment of entrepreneur Jason Holt to review the success of UK apprenticeship schemes.

I was surprised to uncover that 78% of the small business owners we surveyed have never hired, and have no current plans to hire, apprentices to join their workforce. When asked what was stopping them, 44% said the associated training costs were too high and 30% said the red tape surrounding apprentice recruitment was too complex.

This perhaps explains why the government has recently introduced a flurry of new measures to encourage small businesses to hire and train apprentices:

  • Jason Holt is working to improve the marketing of apprenticeship to SMEs and exploring how to cut red tape to speed up and simplify the process of taking on and training apprentices.
  • Small businesses are being offered a £1,500 incentive payment to take on their first apprentice aged 16-24. Around 20,000 small firms are expected to take advantage of the funding, which is being managed by the Skills Funding Agency.
  • From August 2012, small businesses taking on apprentices will be required to employ them for a minimum of 12 months. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that the rules were being changed to “raise the bar on standards” amongst UK apprenticeship schemes. The Federation of Small Businesses said that most small firms would welcome a minimum time frame for taking on apprentices.

    “This way, small businesses can invest in training for young people and know that they will get a return from it, rather than the apprentice leaving after a short space of time,”

    said FSB spokeswoman Sara Lee.

I hope these measures prove successful in boosting apprentice recruitment, because although hiring apprentices may seem an expensive and labour intensive process, these aspiring business stars can make valuable contributions to the small business market:

  • Enthusiasm: Apprentices are generally keen to get stuck in, prove themselves and learn as much as possible during their work experience, which can bring a fresh boost to the company.

  • Loyalty: By investing time and money in training apprentices, they are likely to feel motivated, valued and grateful to join a skilled team. This increases their likelihood to remain with the company to fulfil their long-term prospects.

  • New Ideas: Trainees often bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to business challenges, which is vital to help a business remain flexible and relevant in its market.

John Davis is Managing Director of Business Centric Services Group (BSCG).

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