Apprenticeships risks fear

SMALL firms are shying away from taking on apprentices because they worry about the costs and risks, a Suffolk business leader fears.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber, expressed concern about a study which shows less than one in five firms are prepared to take on an apprentice.

He was speaking on the eve of an expected announcement tomorrow by the Prime Minister on how the Coalition Government plans to introduce fresh incentives to help the long term unemployed.

A recent report from the British Chambers of Commerce entitled Skills for Business: More to Learn? found more than half of companies surveyed felt apprenticeships were ‘not relevant’ to their business or sector. It also found only 15% of firms planned to take on an apprentice between April 2011 and April 2012, compared with 20% of companies that had taken on an apprentice in the preceding year.

“Businesses do see the benefits of apprenticeships and for many business owners they are a critical way to train up young people and adults that then help grow their firms.” said Mr Dugmore.

“However, smaller companies often shy away from taking on apprentices with a worry about the initial costs involved, the skill levels of candidates, and the potential risks to their business, particularly at a time when employing people is tough due to worries about the economy.”

Suffolk Chamber has been working with local education providers to develop new ways to bring young people into the workforce including apprenticeship schemes and the Foundation Degree in business leadership, he added.

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“We have been telling ministers that small firms must be encouraged to take on apprentices, so we welcomed last week’s ministerial moves to strip away some of the obstacles, replacing them with simpler health and safety constraints, a requirement for all apprentices to be offered English and maths up to GCSE level and, crucially, a �1500 incentive for firms employing fewer than 50 employees to take on an apprentice. The Government is offering real help to firms and apprentices alike,” he said