Ambitious SMEs urged to consider apprenticeship schemes

A top business lawyer has encouraged small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with ambitions to expand to think about apprenticeship schemes, which help "develop a skilled and loyal workforce".

Steve Beahan, a partner and member of Irwin Mitchell's SME group, said a large number of smaller companies still believe apprenticeship schemes are simply for bigger firms. Consequently, they are missing the chance to train and hire people with skills that are hard to find.

Mr Beahan added demand for apprenticeship places is as strong as ever and he expects many youngsters fresh from receiving their A-level results to look into opportunities in their chosen field.

"Apprenticeship schemes have had a renaissance in recent years and it is important that SMEs consider it as an option. It can be cost effective and an excellent way in which to develop a skilled and loyal workforce," he said.

"The Government is keen to support businesses in this area and earlier this year it extended a scheme for SMEs which offers cash incentives to help small businesses to take on young apprentices. In addition to increasing the timeframe, it now allows SMEs to claim for up to 10 people."

The Government introduced a number of measures in August 2012 to encourage smaller firms to take on more apprentices.

Apprentices are now given better information and have greater access to training, while a study was launched to discover how SMEs can have more influence in developing suitable training provision.

Plans were also announced to make it easier for SMEs to receive funding to establish apprenticeship schemes.

The Federation of Small Businesses has revealed more than one million apprentices have trained in the past decade. There are presently 255,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 benefiting from apprenticeship programmes in 160 vocational areas.

A recent study has shown 54% of young people in England would sign up to an apprenticeship if they had the chance, while another poll discovered companies rate apprentices as 15% more employable than youngsters with other qualifications.

Copyright Press Association 2013