Just one in three SMEs across the UK currently offer apprenticeships, according to new research from the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of SME owners and senior managers.
The Business Barometer also reveals that almost two fifths of those who do take on apprentices say it gives them access to the best young talent, while 28% say that it allows them to develop skill sets the business may be lacking.
A further 16% say that apprentices improve business productivity.
Commenting on the figures, CEO of Close Brothers Asset Finance, Mike Randall said: “It’s evident that SMEs who participate in apprenticeship schemes see clear business benefits in doing so, and I think it would be to the benefit of the wider economy if participation in such programmes were to increase.
“Apprenticeships becoming more embedded in our culture can only be a good thing as they allow employers to develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce, whilst at the same time improving employability prospects for the younger generation.”
Engineering UK has warned that the UK doesn’t have either the capacity or the rate of growth needed to meet the forecast demand for skilled engineers by 2022.
“The demand for skilled employees will become greater as the economy grows, and at present there are real fears that the demand won’t be met, particularly in industry sectors such as engineering.
“Apprenticeships could play a key role in helping SMEs bridge that skills gap but perhaps the cost and process of recruitment and training are prohibitive factors for many smaller businesses.
“That’s why our parent company, Close Brothers Group plc has launched the ‘Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme’. We have pledged to contribute to the cost of apprentices for 60 SMEs in the engineering and manufacturing sector over a three-year period,” said Mr Randall.
The University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) will help SMEs recruit and train the new generation of skilled engineering workers.
Mike Randall added: “We’re very proud that Close Brothers has pioneered this programme. We work closely with manufacturing companies across the UK and understand their concerns and frustrations when it comes to securing the human resource needed to propel their businesses forward.
“We hope that this apprenticeship programme will go some way to addressing the issue by allowing participating SMEs to secure the skills they need to futureproof their business.”