Over the past year, two in five small businesses took on at least one apprentice and almost 50% of these kept on at least half of them as they start to realise the benefits of having apprentices in the workplace.
A quarter of SME owners said that they plan to take on at least one apprentice in the next year with apprenticeship participation hitting a record of 871,000 last year.
This follows the announcement of the apprenticeship levy in the Chancellor’s autumn statement, set to raise £3bn a year by 2021 and expected to fund 3m apprentices by 2020.
The new levy will apply from April 2017 and will be charged at the rate of 0.5% of employers’ pay bills, subject to a £15,000 levy allowance.
There are concerns over affordability issues that are preventing owners from taking on any or more apprentices – one in seven SME owners said that they are unable to afford them, which follows the outcry from business owners when the levy was announced.
Further, one in three claimed they did not have the need for apprentices, whilst another one in five said that they preferred to bring in skilled workers instead.
One in six SME owners have said that there should be more government help or initiatives to those businesses offering more apprenticeships.
Mark Farrar, chief executive of ATT, said ‘The attention being given to apprenticeships at present, led by regulation such as the new apprenticeship levy on businesses, the new national living wage and the government’s target for 2020, is welcome. However, the message we are receiving from small businesses is that they need plenty of support and encouragement in order to play their own critical part in bringing more successful apprentices through the system.
‘Apprentices deliver great value to the UK economy – a 2014 AAT report put the value at around £1.8bn – and we urge small businesses to consider what role they can play within their organisations.’