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More employers should consider apprenticeships

A leading business group has argued that greater numbers of small firms should look at the benefits that taking on apprentices may have to offer.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) said that there are 4.7 million small businesses in the UK, but that figures from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) suggest that only 130,000 employers provide apprenticeships.

Nick Palin, the FPB’s director of human resources, said: “There is a clear gap between what businesses need and what businesses get when it comes to the ability of the traditional education system to produce viable employees for small businesses.

“Our members tell us they find it difficult to recruit employees with basic attributes, let alone the more developed and specific skills required by some businesses. The FPB believes that apprenticeships could provide a solution.”

Research carried out by the FPB last year revealed that the skills and aptitude of many school- and university-leavers are not meeting the needs of small businesses.

The majority of the small businesses surveyed said that they value school- and college-leavers over graduates and postgraduates. Just 11 per cent said they seek out graduates or postgraduates when recruiting, but 20 per cent preferred younger employees, straight from school or college.

In addition, 77.4 per cent of small-business employers do not require employees with ‘university’ skills, while 35.5 per cent want people with technical skills that are not provided by universities.

To help promote the value of apprenticeships outside such traditional sectors as manufacturing, the FPB has called on firms to enter the Learning and Skills Council’s National Apprenticeship Awards.

The National Apprenticeship Awards, now in their sixth year, are designed to recognise employers who successfully use apprenticeships to improve the performance of their businesses. Entries come from firms operating in sectors from accountancy and engineering to construction, the creative industries and sport.

Employers can apply for the 2009 awards by calling 0800 954 8896 or visiting www.apprenticeships.org.uk/awards