Recent reports have highlighted a decline in UK apprenticeships, this is a worrying situation that could create future skill shortages and result in UK businesses struggling to grow in the future.
At such a sensitive time post the Brexit referendum there is a growing feeling that something needs to be done and a new report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) highlights how small businesses are already positioned to help.
The FSB believe from their research that there is the potential to deliver well over a million new apprenticeships from smaller employers.
“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.
Business Benefits of Apprenticeships
There are many benefits to small businesses in offering apprenticeships including:
- Giving young people a real chance to develop a long-term career
- Most apprenticeships lead to longer-term employment once training is complete
- They create a positive impact on the business supporting future growth
- Highly cost-effective way for small businesses to ensure they have the trained staff they need
Common Small Business Concerns
However, many smaller employers still have concerns about offering apprenticeships.
Common concerns include:
- school leavers not having the needed businesses’ skills
- hard to find apprentices with a good work ethic
- the time needed for day to day apprentice management
- lack of skills and time for properly training
Mike Cherry continued to highlight how the UK Government needs to help to alleviate small business owners’ concerns:
“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.
What can be done to support small businesses?
In light of business concerns there are some key areas where extra help could make a big difference:
Better collaboration between schools and small businesses to help highlight opportunities and to prepare school leavers properly with the necessary skills and outlook for a successful apprenticeship.
All too often there is the wrong impression that young people in the UK have a poor work ethic, in reality, this is far from true. Schools can work closely with employers to find the right apprenticeship matches.
Support for business owners in running and managing apprenticeships with advice on how to fit in training and access to external resources and support course recommendations. The easier it is for businesses to not only start but continue to run apprenticeships the more likely these are to be successful.
In addition, many small businesses could make better use of business software and solutions to streamline their day to day tasks. Advances in areas like online accounting and invoicing software can drastically reduce the time spent on these areas plus make areas such a payroll much easier to manage.
Certainly improving business final operations can benefit any small business both in time and profitability.
Lastly, while financial incentives from the Government would certain help alone they will never be enough to create a sustainable system of apprenticeships.
Small businesses in the UK could play a large role in offer apprenticeships which will help build a skilled UK workforce for the future and help support our economic growth as we prepare to leave the EU.
However, while smaller employers are very willing to help they need both financial and operational support to overcome the current obstacles.
A joined up approach involving business, education and the UK Government could make a significant difference and create a strong foundation for increasing UK apprenticeships.