A new report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that the small business sector in England has the potential to double the number of apprentices it takes on to well over two million.
The study found that one in four FSB members already employ an apprentice, but a further quarter would consider taking one on in the future.
The FSB claims that, if this accurately reflects the situation of the rest of England’s 4.7 million small firms, there is potential to deliver over a million new apprenticeships with smaller employers, but only with the correct Government approach to incentives and support.
The Government has a target of reaching three million new apprentices by 2020, but the FSB claims that this is a ‘make-or-break’ moment for the ambition.
Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said: ‘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.
‘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.’
Other findings in the study include evidence that small businesses are most likely to recruit apprentices from outside the business, with 79% of FSB members recruiting externally, and that apprenticeships in two thirds of small businesses lead to longer-term employment once training is complete.