Small business owners opting for apprentices over graduates


The survey revealed that 57 per cent said that they would rather opt for an apprentice for an entry-level role and the vast majority of small business owners think a degree is less valuable now than it was ten years ago. Only 15 per cent said they would consider hiring more graduates in five years time, compared to 40 per cent that said they would be looking to hire more apprentices.

The research was commissioned in aim to get insight into how UK small businesses feel about youth unemployment and hiring 16-24 year olds for their entry level roles.

Despite 86 per cent of small business owners saying that they were worried about youth unemployment, when asked who had the biggest responsibility to solve it the government topped their list and UK businesses came in last. Over a third of small business owners thought solving youth unemployment was the government’s responsibility, followed by schools/ education establishments, young people themselves and lastly UK businesses.

Disappointingly less than a quarter of small businesses say have hired an 18-24 year old school/ university leaver in the last two years. For those that did, over half said that they had a poor experience. The main reasons for this was that they didn’t have the right skills, they didn’t feel that they had the right attitude and 22 per cent said that they had a bad experience because they didn’t stay very long.

Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training (UK) comments:  “Small businesses account for 60 per cent of all private sector employment in the UK – they cannot simply turn their backs on the over a half a million unemployed 16-24 year olds in the UK and pass the buck back to the government.

“Because some have had a poor experience with school leavers, for many small businesses the standard practice is to put in place barriers for even the most basic of entry level roles to dissuade school and university leavers, such as ‘minimum two years work experience.’ This just exacerbates the issue of youth unemployment as the school leavers can’t even get on the job ladder and they become desperate to take any job they can, which just fuels a vicious cycle.”

Nearly two thirds of small business owners believe hat the majority of 16-24 year old school and university leavers are motivated by their salary – only 20 per cent believe that they are motivated by the value that they can bring to the company.

Shaun Thomson adds: “There are many talented, high quality young candidates entering the job market. To find them, small businesses must put processes in place to identify the applicants that have the right attitude, who would fit in well with the company culture and then be developed over time. People stay at companies where they respect their values, and where the business values them. By taking on a young person based on attitude, they can be developed and taught the right skills to start a career within the organisation. And finally young people can stop being discriminated against for lack of experience.”

Of the 2,000 small business owners that were surveyed, only 38 per cent had an individual development plan for their employees and over three quarters do not meet with their employees more than one a month – nearly a quarter have never ran individual meetings for their employees.