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Government must engage SMEs when developing apprenticeship schemes

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The government must do more to engage with SMEs (small and medium enterprises) on technology apprenticeships, according to Graham Hunter, VP of skills certifications, Europe and Middle East at IT trade association CompTIA.

He said that technology SMEs are wary of apprentices trained by large organisations because of their possible knowledge gaps.

“An apprentice trained by a large organisation might not have that breadth of knowledge,” he told HR magazine, explaining that: “Small and medium enterprises don’t know who is going to walk through their door next. It could be a customer needing support for Windows, or Android, or Apple products.”

Referring to the government’s target to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020, Hunter added: “The government has spoken to larger firms in the technology industry to put together what best practice for apprenticeship schemes should look like, but critically they haven’t engaged with SMEs. The government will not reach the three million target without help from smaller firms.”

Hunter’s comments coincide with the launch of a report from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), warning that only 10% of training organisations in this sector feel advice offered by the National Careers Service has any impact on apprentice recruitment.

All respondents to the IMI survey believe that the situation is set to get much worse now that teenagers must stay in some form of education until the age of 18.

IMI CEO Steve Nash said that with skills shortages starting to appear in every sector the apprenticeship target should be higher.

He added, however, that even the current target will be difficult to reach: “The leaving age problem raises serious questions over [the government's] ability to hit even this target without investing in a serious careers advice programme, which it is currently refusing to do,” he said.

“With funding for education set to be squeezed, employers and training providers in the motor industry are voicing fears that they will lose out in the race for the best learners. Schools will seek to keep as many ‘paying’ students in sixth form as possible. They need only to ration information about alternatives and the already small talent pool available to fill apprenticeship vacancies will be drained,” he warned.