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Managers at smaller businesses realising the value of apprenticeships

Managers at smaller businesses throughout England are embracing apprenticeships, with nine out of ten saying they have boosted productivity within their business, according to a new study by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

  • 97% say that taking on apprentices has been good value for money for them.
  • Nine out of ten (90%) say they have boosted their business’ productivity
  • 83% say their apprentices have added value to their business within six months of taking them on

Managers at smaller businesses throughout England are embracing apprenticeships, with nine out of ten saying they have boosted productivity within their business, according to a new study by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

The study of 500 businesses with between 10 and 100 employees, commissioned to tie in with National Apprenticeship Week this week, shows apprenticeships are appreciated for the value they can bring. 97 per cent of SME owners and senior decision makers who have taken on an apprentice say that taking one on has been good value for money for them, 83 per cent say that apprentices have added value to their business within six months of taking them on., and 63 per cent say that they get staff who are more suited to their businesses and the skills they need, by taking them on as apprentices.

The average number of apprentices taken on by these businesses in the past two years is three, with one in five (19%) saying that they have taken on five or more. 78 per cent say that the number of apprentices they have taken on in the past five years has grown. 96 per cent of those questioned say that they are very likely or quite likely to take on more apprentices in the next two years.  

When looking to take an apprentice on, 30 per cent found out how to hire one from a government website, 24 per cent found out from a registered training organization, 19 per cent found out from their local FE college or training provider, and 19 per cent got a word of mouth recommendation.

45 per cent of those who have taken on apprentices say they have already accessed available funds from the Apprenticeship Levy to help train a new employee. 36 per cent say they have already accessed funds to help train an existing employee. 21 per cent say they have not accessed funds but intend to do so this year, 10 per cent say they have not accessed funds but are likely to do so over the next few years, 2 per cent say they are unlikely to access funds, and 6 per cent say they were totally unaware that funds from the levy were available for their business.

57 per cent of those who have taken on apprentices said that apprenticeships are the best pathway into the industry in which their business primarily operates, versus 18 per cent who said a university degree is the best, and 55 per cent said that they prefer to recruit apprentices, compared to 32 per cent who prefer university graduates.

On average, the businesses who have taken on apprentices say they have offered to keep on 61 per cent of them after they finished their apprenticeship, with one in five (21%) saying they have offered to keep on all the apprentices they have ever taken on.

Of the businesses spoken to who have never taken on an apprentice, 39 per cent say that they feel there are still barriers holding them back from taking one on. Of those, 29 per cent say the cost of starting an apprenticeship scheme is the biggest barrier, 27 per cent say trying to find out how to get funding is too complicated, and 15 per cent say they don’t know how to start a scheme. Despite there still being perceived barriers for these businesses, 71 per cent of those who have never taken on an apprentice say they are currently planning to take some on.

Rob Alder, Head of Business Development at AAT says: “Although there have been some negative comments on the impact of the Government’s apprenticeships reforms, our research shows that there are still many positives in training an apprentice and it is good to see that reflected in the SME market. Our research shows that England’s small businesses hugely endorse apprentices within their own firms and value the benefits apprentices can bring to them. Those who have taken on apprentices are happy with them, and even those who haven’t yet taken any on are making plans to do so.

“However, the fact that there are some who still feel that there are barriers to them taking on apprentices, and who are having problems with costs and understanding the system, shows that more still needs to be done to raise awareness and help smaller businesses especially.”

Sue Husband, Director, National Apprenticeship Service says: “We wholeheartedly believe that apprenticeships work – not just for apprentices themselves, but businesses of all shapes and sizes, across all industries, sectors and job roles, and for people of all ages.

“AAT’s research demonstrates the positive impact that apprenticeships have on small businesses in England. For people considering their first – or next – career, an apprenticeship can equip you with the skills and on-the-job training that you will require, while we hope other company owners will consider how taking on apprentices can boost their business.”