Small firms call for apprenticeship incentive extension as starts tumble

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Following another annual fall in apprenticeship starts, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for the apprenticeship incentive to be extended.

In response to the publication of statistics on apprenticeships and traineeships in England, the FSB’s National Chair Mike Cherry said, “Whilst the pandemic has understandably had a dampening effect on training efforts, the annual fall in apprenticeship starts is nevertheless very concerning against a backdrop of chronic skills shortages. It is, however, good to see that the rate of reduction in starts has slowed somewhat.

“The numbers lay bare the north-south divide, with a disproportionate fall in apprenticeship starts in the North and the Midlands, and with the North East seeing the largest reduction in percentage terms.

“The £3,000 apprenticeship incentive – set to be withdrawn at the end of September – should be extended as a matter of urgency, to forestall another dip in numbers.

“Equally we have to get the apprenticeship levy system right, to ensure that the funds contributed are shared with firms of all sizes, giving young people the opportunity to gain the hands-on experience and access to leadership that is unique to smaller firms.

“Chronic skills shortages that existed before the pandemic hit have been exacerbated by lockdowns disrupting development, a new immigration system, and a reduction in economic mobility for some workers. In sectors which were particularly hard-hit by lockdowns, many have moved to new areas of employment, leaving a vacuum as those sectors have reopened.

Close to four in ten small firms now cite skills shortages as a major barrier to growth.

“Over the longer term, getting skills development right will require a holistic approach, empowering those in work to take control of professional development and reskilling, while also ensuring that education leavers have a plethora of attractive options – from work placements and qualifications, to apprenticeships, to clear information about career paths and in-demand sectors,” he added.

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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.


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