Rural firms struggling to recruit skilled workers and apprentices, says FSB regional chair Salena Dawson

FSB East Anglia chair Salena Dawson.

FSB East Anglia chair Salena Dawson. - Credit: Archant

Small firms based in the countryside and market towns of East Anglia are struggling to recruit skilled staff and apprentices, it has been claimed.

And FSB East Anglia chair Salena Dawson has backed a national report launched by the federation yesterday which says the small business sector could double its number of apprentices to more than two million, given the right package of incentives and support from the Government.

The FSB report found that nearly one in four FSB members already employ an apprentice but a further quarter would consider taking one on in the future.

However, the contribution firms have to make towards the cost of training apprentices is seen as a major barrier. To tackle this, the FSB is calling on the Government to provide a more generous small employer incentive than is proposed under current plans for apprenticeship reform, with the additional support to be targeted at the smallest firms which can least afford the extra up-front costs.

Ms Dawson said: “I have spoken directly with members on this issue and it remains a frustration to small business owners that they struggle to secure skilled staff or individuals to become skilled whilst working for their business and this is more predominant in market towns and rural areas throughout Norfolk and Suffolk.

“Through my discussion with small business owners it has been noted that access to potential apprentices still remains an issue and also a view remains that to take on an apprentice is onerous with increased risk and cost to the business regarding implementation of strict health and safety regulations and with employment law implications.

“It is commonly believed that the benefits of taking on an apprentice will not be suitably proportionate to the cost. I therefore endorse this report and the call to Government for a more generous small employer incentive than is currently proposed.”

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However, she added: “What we also need to tackle is the ‘fiction verses the reality’ and ensure greater dissemination of information demonstrating that to take on an apprentice is not an ordeal and it can be an excellent way to grow a business.”