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Government to make apprenticeships simpler for SMEs, following publication of Holt Review

The Government will increase awareness among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of the benefits of apprenticeships, and make support for small businesses taking on apprentices simpler and more accessible, following a report from jeweller and social entrepreneur Jason Holt (pictured), published yesterday.

The Education and Business Secretaries commissioned Holt's report in February to advise them on what more could be done to help SMEs take on apprentices.

Drawing on his discussions with small firms, Holt points to a lack of awareness among small businesses about the benefits of taking on apprentices and how to recruit and train them. In response, the Skills Minister John Hayes welcomed the findings, and outlined new measures to help SMEs take on apprentices. These were announced during a visit to PK Automotive in Lincoln to congratulate the company on taking on their first apprentices.

The Government plans to work with the people that SMEs look to for advice, including lawyers and accountants, to promote apprenticeships to their SME customers; enable SMEs to get their apprentices the training they need, by providing better information on availability and investigating how to give them a greater say in developing the skills they need; improve the performance of providers of training to SMEs by agreeing standards and the consequences of not meeting them; and improve the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers by making it simpler and more accessible to more employers.

PK Automotive is being awarded a £1,500 grant per apprentice as part of the Government's Apprenticeship Grant for Employers. This is providing up to 40,000 grants to encourage smaller employers to take on new young apprentices.

On publication of his report, Holt said: "Whilst apprenticeships offer undoubted growth opportunities for businesses, not enough SMEs are taking advantage. This is because they have an outdated view of apprenticeships, are often in the dark, and frequently do not receive the specific training provision their apprentices need. My recommendations are intended to address these issues with Government, employers and providers all playing a part."

Education secretary Michael Gove said: "I am very grateful to Jason Holt for the considerable time and effort he has devoted to producing his report. He is certainly right that we need to give employers, and not training providers, the power and freedom to shape their apprenticeships, and make the process as simple as possible for every employer.

"Jason has raised important issues for us to consider - we can and must go even further, to strip out bureaucracy and to ensure quality."

Business secretary Vince Cable added: "Only a small minority of SMEs currently employ apprentices. Many of the rest are missing out on an effective way of growing and up-skilling their businesses.

"We hope that the measures announced today will make a difference by raising awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships amongst SMEs and making it as easy as possible for these businesses to take on an apprentice".

Owner of PK Automotive Paul Killingsworth said: "My apprentices, along with my trained technicians are an investment in the development and future of my business."