Smaller businesses throughout England are embracing apprenticeships, with 90% who have taken one on saying they have boosted productivity within their business, according to a new study by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians).
The study, commissioned for National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March), shows that businesses appreciate the value apprenticeships can bring to them, with 97% saying that taking on apprentices has been good value for money for them.
83% said that apprentices have added value to their business within six months of taking them on, and 63% saying 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 19% saying that they have taken on five or more.
78% say that the number of apprentices they have taken on in the past five years has grown. In a signal of satisfaction with their apprentices, 96% of those questioned say that they are very likely or quite likely to take on more apprentices in the next two years.
55% of the respondents said that they prefer to recruit apprentices, compared to 32% who prefer university graduates.
57% of those who have taken on apprentices also said that apprenticeships are the best pathway into the industry in which their business primarily operates, versus 18% who said a university degree is the best.
On average, the businesses who have taken on apprentices say they have offered to keep on 61% of them after they finished their apprenticeship, with 21% saying they have offered to keep on all the apprentices they have ever taken on.
45% 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% say they have already accessed funds to help train an existing employee.
21% say they have not accessed funds but intend to do so this year, 10% say they have not accessed funds but are likely to do so over the next few years, 2% say they are unlikely to access funds, and 6% say they were totally unaware that funds from the levy were available for their business.
Of businesses spoken to who have never taken on an apprentice, 39% say that they feel there are still barriers holding them back from taking one on.
Of those, 29% say the cost of starting an apprenticeship scheme is the biggest barrier, 27% say trying to find out how to get funding is too complicated, and 15% say they don’t know how to start a scheme.
Despite there still being these perceived barriers for these businesses, 71% 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 said: “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.”