New research has revealed that the majority of small and museum-sized businesses in the UK are not taking on any apprentices.

According to the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey analysing different aspects of the small business market, only around a third of SMEs have hired apprentices.

The lack of investment in apprenticeships is a particular concern for the engineering and manufacturing industries that are expected to have skill shortages by 2022 due to the lack of trainees.

Mike Randall, CEO of Close Brothers Asset Finance, 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.”

What are the advantages for SMEs of taking on an apprentice?

Taking on an apprentice or any new employee is a big decision for small businesses. Finding the right person, arranging employers’ liability insurance and then adequately training them all costs time and money. However there are clearly many advantages driving more than 30% of UK SMEs to create apprenticeships.

The survey results showed that almost 40% of businesses that hire apprentices do so because it gives them access to the best young talent, while 28% believe it allows them to fill any skills gap through targeted training. Another 16% make the decision to take on apprentices to improve productivity.

New scheme to help small manufacturers and engineering businesses hire apprentices

In reaction to concerns about there not being enough apprentices to meet skill demands in the future, the Close Brothers Group has launched an apprentice programme pledging to contribute to the cost of 60 apprentices for SMEs in the engineering and manufacturing sector over the next three years.

This initiative is being supported bythe University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA).

CEO Mike Randall added:

“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.”

Applications are being accepted during June. Visit the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme page for further information.