Federation of Small Business networking event at Village Point, Heaton Moor.

New research carried out in Greater Manchester & Cheshire shows many small businesses remain confused by apprenticeships and would need to seek external advice and help to recruit one.

The study, carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses, sought to ascertain employer awareness around the current apprenticeship system, identify common barriers to recruitment, gauge attitudes towards apprentices and the value firms place on them.

The survey was timed to coincide with the introduction of the ‘Levy’, which has introduced a new funding structure for apprenticeships as the government seeks to address the skills gap across the UK and deliver three million new apprentices by 2020. The research showed 63% of small firms in this region would need outside help before employing one. Nearly a quarter (23%) admitted they were ‘clueless’, and 40% said while they had some idea, would still require help.

In addition, 64% of survey respondents admitted they were unclear around apprentice funding – which was also cited as the biggest barrier to recruiting an apprentice (56%). Finding a training provider was the second most common obstacle (43%) to taking on an apprentice, while finding and recruiting suitable candidates (39%) was third. Other common barriers were around knowing how much to pay, and finding a suitable course appropriate to the job. Almost a third (31%) all of the latter were issues they’d need help with.

On a more positive note, 52% of businesses said they’d ‘definitely’ employ an apprentice if they had a suitable vacancy, and a further 42% said they’d ‘consider’ it. Only six per cent said they wouldn’t consider it. Also, just 11% of respondents agreed with the statement: ‘apprenticeships are for those not bright enough for university’.

FSB Regional Chairman for Manchester & North Cheshire, Simon Edmondson, said: “There’s still far too much confusion among small firms when it comes to apprenticeships – and we’ve got to address that as a region. Two thirds of firms admit they’d need help before recruiting an apprentice, and most have little idea of where and who to then access that help from.

“There’s a good case for a major awareness raising campaign around apprenticeships which will help enable employers to be confident they can recruit the right person for the job, access the best training possible, and ensure they are getting all the other bits in between right as well.

“Until businesses are more confident in how to take on a young apprentice, then successful apprentice training will be stuck in the slow lane. This should be something the incoming Metro Mayor in Greater Manchester should tackle as a priority when they take office in May,” he added.


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