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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Holt Review calls for overhaul of SME apprenticeship system


Less than 10% of UK small-to-medium enterprises ever take on apprentices because existing programmes are “misunderstood and inaccessible”, according to a government report.

The review into how to make apprenticeships simpler and easier for SMEs to get involved with, which was undertaken by jewellery entrepreneur Jason Holt, found that the entire system needed overhauling.
One of the problems was that too many SMEs had an “outdated view of apprenticeships, are often in the dark, and frequently do not receive the specific training provision their apprentices need”, he said.
As a result, Holt suggested that such employers, which comprise 99% of UK businesses, should be more involved in designing the content of apprenticeship schemes and have some direct control over their funding, either via vouchers or discounts on employers’ National Insurance Contributions.
This was because too many existing training providers, which ranged from large firms to colleges and freelance consultants, were “following the money” rather than teaching appropriate skills or creating good quality job candidates that met employers’ needs.
In response to the Holt Review, the coalition government promised to make apprenticeships “simpler and more accessible” and to tackle a “lack of awareness, insufficient SME empowerment and poor [processes]”.
Too slow
Education secretary Michael Gove pledged to issue providers with a set of guidelines and standards and warned of the “consequences of not meeting them”, which include being barred from being able to access funding.
But plans were also announced to revamp The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, which provides up to 40,000 grants of £1,500 per apprentice aged 16 to 24.
The funding will now be provided in one chunk rather than two, with employers able to claim fees for up to 10 trainees. The incentive will also be broadened out to cover organisations with up to 1,000 workers.
Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills at manufacturers’ organisation, EEF, welcomed changes to the Grant, which he said, although small, should “go some way” to providing SMEs with incentives to take on more trainees.
But he warned that government action on improving the apprenticeship system had “to date been too slow”.
“If the government is serious about encouraging more young people to undertake apprentices, and more employers to offer apprenticeships, it must address issues such as careers advice, the status of vocational education and the regulatory burden that still prevents many small businesses from taking on apprentices,” Thomas said.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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