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Government appoints entrepreneur to examine how more SMEs can take on apprentices

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Skills minister John Hayes (pictured) has appointed entrepreneur and jeweller Jason Holt to head-up an employer-led review examining what more can be done to help SMEs take on apprentices.

Holt will talk to a range of stakeholders about a number of issues, including improving the marketing of the apprenticeships programme to SMEs and how to cut red tape to further speed up and simplify the process of taking on and training apprentices.

As well as running a jewellery business in Hatton Garden, London, Holt also runs Holts Academy of Jewellery - a not-for-profit training academy.

Hayes said: "I am delighted Mr Holt has agreed to lead this review. His experience, both as a business man and through running a training academy, gives him invaluable insight into the needs of both small businesses and apprentices.

"I want to ensure that small businesses can enjoy the multitude of benefits that apprentices can offer a company - including improved productivity and the chance to build a better-skilled and dedicated workforce. This review will play a vital role in achieving that aim."

Holt said: "I am delighted to have been asked by Ministers to lead this Review. It is vital that we make the apprenticeship route as accessible as possible for SMEs.

"As the owner of several such companies, including an Academy, I hope that I can use my experience to add value and make a positive and practical contribution to something so fundamental in the growth of business."

The review will build on the Government initiatives already underway to make the apprenticeships system more responsive to SME needs.

These include reducing the time taken to advertise an apprenticeship vacancy to within one month of deciding to take on an apprentice; removing SFA health and safety requirements on providers that go beyond regulatory requirements; allowing micro companies to add up to two broader business skills units to apprenticeships (recognising the wider skills range that is often required in such companies); simplifying guidance for SMEs and establishing a dedicated team at the National Apprenticeship Service; and ew employer incentive payments of £1,500 to support up to 40,000 additional places for young people (16-24), where these are new jobs with smaller employers

Holt will present his report to ministers in May this year.