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Small businesses are planning to create thousands of new Apprenticeships in the next year, according to new research out today to mark National Apprenticeship Week.

The study of 600 British businesses reveals that one in five SMEs (20%) plan to take on one or more apprentices in the next 12 months. This goes up to 39% over the next five years. This compares to 15% (12 months) and 34% (five years) of SMEs respectively, when asked the same question in February 2013.

Over a quarter (29%) of the SMEs that plan to take on apprentices say this is because they are a core part of their growth strategy.

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, said: ‘As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week it’s good to see that employers are increasingly recognising the value apprentices can bring to their businesses. Apprentices are now a key and valued part of the workforce for most businesses large or small – and the huge increase which this Government has overseen is one of my proudest achievements.

‘Given the grants available to help small businesses take on apprentices, it’s especially good that so many SMEs are embracing apprenticeships in the coming years and that apprentice recruitment now forms a key part of a businesses’ plans for sustainable growth.”

The study also shows how Apprenticeships are growing in popularity.  In fact, 43% of employers agree they would be more likely to offer an Apprenticeship than they were two years ago.  Of these nearly two in five (38%) said this was because the talent pool had widened as Apprenticeships become more popular, 33% because it had become easier to employ apprentices and 32% because they have more job roles in their business that would suit an apprentice.  Overall, 41% of employers agreed that apprentices stay in the business longer than other recruits.

Furthermore, it would appear Apprenticeships are now filtering into supply chain selection criteria. Nearly one in five (16%) SMEs and over a third (37%) of larger organisations say they have been questioned by clients or prospects about their apprentice recruitment policies.

These findings are mirrored in a supplementary study amongst some of the companies featured in the latest City & Guilds Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers List. Key findings from the bosses surveyed include:

  • 93% advocate apprentice recruitment through their supply chain
  • 78% would be more likely to choose a supplier or partner if they too offered Apprenticeships, with 18% of these saying apprentice recruitment is already part of their selection criteria

Jason Holt, Small Business Apprenticeship Ambassador said: ‘Apprenticeships really deliver for small businesses, enabling them to grow their own talent by developing a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. And for the apprentices, an Apprenticeship is a way for them to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a real qualification and a real future.’

To help small business owners on their Apprenticeship journey, a new initiative has been launched this week.  Apprenticemakers (www.apprenticemakers.org.uk), developed by the National Apprenticeship Service in conjunction with Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), is a new online peer to peer mentoring community which provides easy access to other businesses who have already taken on apprentices, so that questions can be asked and experiences shared.

Government funding is available to help companies take on an apprentice. Through the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) of 16 to 24 year olds, businesses who choose to grow their business through Apprenticeships can access funding of £1,500.  The grant is open to organisations employing up to 1,000 people, who have never employed an apprentice before, or have not recruited one in the past 12 months.

Now in its seventh year, National Apprenticeship Week is designed to celebrate Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.  The overarching theme for 2014 has been Great Apprenticeships, to demonstrate that Apprenticeships are great for business, personal careers and create opportunities for both employers and apprentices.