Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses could unlock a hiring surge of more than a quarter of a million apprentices in the year ahead if the funding system is simplified, according to new research from tech startup Multiverse.
Multiverse, which carried out the research with 1,000 SMEs, found that over a third (35%) currently plan to take on an apprentice this year, but that significantly more apprentices would be hired with further support from government.
Six in ten of all small and medium-sized companies surveyed said they would hire at least one more apprentice this year in addition to their current plans if additional government funding was made available, while three in ten would hire two or more trainees – representing an additional 260,000 apprentices joining the labour market.
Analysis from one of the UK’s largest training providers finds that smaller companies are the area with one the greatest potential growth. While apprenticeship starts at larger firms are growing, government data shows the number of apprentices placed at SMEs is down 45% on 2016/17 levels.
The critical challenge may in fact be the awareness of existing funding streams: while small businesses predict huge growth in apprentices if more funding is made available by the government, Multiverse’s research found that the vast majority did not know about the current funding they can already access. The data revealed that nearly two-thirds were unaware of the Government funding arrangements available to support SMEs to hire apprentices.
The analysis found that small business leaders overwhelmingly back apprentices joining their companies, with eight in ten having had a positive experience of hiring an apprentice and nearly two-thirds seeing them as a positive way of hiring talent from more diverse backgrounds.
Jeremy Duggan, President at Multiverse, said, “Apprentices up and down the country are joining the workforce and improving how businesses operate, with Government figures showing that for every £1 spent on an apprenticeship, more than £28 is put back into the economy. But small and medium-sized businesses have struggled to recruit the volume of apprentices they need, and this needs to change.
“This research shows in black and white the huge potential out there to grow the number of trainees in the UK’s 5.5m SMEs. From boosting diversity to training young people in the data and digital skills the economy needs for the future, the Government urgently needs to act. Simple steps like simplifying the funding system will unlock huge economic growth up and down the country.”