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March 07, 2014 - Rachel Miller

More SMEs taking on apprentices in 2014

More SMEs taking on apprentices in 2014As this year's National Apprentice Week comes to an end, new research shows that small businesses are planning to create thousands of new apprenticeships in the next year.

A study of 600 British businesses by ICM reveals that one in five SMEs plan to take on one or more apprentices in the next 12 months. This goes up to 39% over the next five years. This compares to 15% and 34% of SMEs, when asked the same question in February 2013.

Over a quarter (29%) of the SMEs that plan to take on apprentices say this is because they are a core part of their growth strategy. And 43% of employers say they would be more likely to offer an apprenticeship than they were two years ago.

Vince Cable, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, said:

"It's especially good that so many SMEs are embracing apprenticeships in the coming years and that apprentice recruitment now forms a key part of businesses' plans for sustainable growth."

Government funding is available to help firms take on a 16-24 year old as an apprentice. The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) is open to businesses employing up to 1,000 people who have never employed an apprentice before or have not recruited one in the past 12 months.

However, AGE is set to end in December 2014. This week, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called on the chancellor to use his spring Budget to announce a two-year extension to the Apprenticeships Grant for Employers scheme. It has highlighted the fact that demand from young people for apprenticeship places continues to outstrip supply – by as much as 12 to one.

Nora Senior, BCC president, said: "Apprenticeships give young people the opportunity to learn a new skill, and give businesses the opportunity to teach them a trade that is specific to their business.

"However, hiring younger workers without a track record is a large commitment for a company. There are things that government can do to encourage businesses to invest in someone who is less experienced – starting with a commitment to extend the successful Apprenticeships Grant for Employers scheme, which is set to end in December 2014 if ministers don't act now."

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