Small firms could create a million new apprenticeships with the right support from the government, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said.
A new report from the FSB claims the small business sector in England has the potential to double the number of apprentices it takes on to over two million.
It said apprenticeship reform is at a “make-or-break moment”, with small firms critical to achieving the government’s target of three million new apprentices by 2020.
In its report – Make or Break: Getting apprenticeship reform right for small businesses – the FSB found that one in four (24%) of its 2,000 members employ an apprentice, with a further 24% considering taking one on in the future.
However, it warned that this figure is likely to fall if there is a change that requires small businesses to contribute towards the cost of training their apprentice. To limit this, the FSB has called on the government to improve its small employer incentive.
Mike Cherry, national chairman at 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.”
He added the government needs to focus on three key areas; more targeted and localised information for businesses with high growth potential, specific and practical guidance on how a smaller company can take on an apprentice, and a more generous package of incentives and support for those which do.
Getting this right is “key to the successful reform of the apprenticeship system”, he said.