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Keep apprenticeships viable for SMEs, City & Guilds urges government

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The government must take the needs of smaller businesses into account as the apprenticeship system continues to change, City & Guilds has said.

City & Guilds made the announcement to mark the start of National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from 9 to 13 March.

City & Guilds UK managing director Kirstie Donnelly said: “An apprentice is a valuable asset for any business, so we fully recognise the need for a system that better meets the needs of employers.

“However, the government has to remember that one system will not suit everyone. Smaller businesses already struggle with limited time and resources, and too much bureaucracy will only make the system worse. It’s vital that the new management and funding arrangements do not discourage them from employing an apprentice.”

Transmission technology specialist Xtrac is an SME that has run apprenticeships for years. Its apprenticeship co-ordinator Warren Page said employing an apprentice was “definitely worth the effort” for smaller businesses.

He added: “They [apprentices] are hardworking and loyal and can be shaped to the needs of your business. The return on investment is incredible.”

Virgin to create 1,000 apprenticeship roles

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, media giant Virgin has announced it will be creating 1,000 apprenticeship roles over the next five years.

The company has worked with BT to provide advice and best practice to the ITP so they could provide guidance to SMEs who are thinking of launching apprentice schemes.

Virgin Media head of apprenticeships Chris Starling said working with SMEs is about “sharing good knowledge” and “doing our part to support the SME community”.

He advised SMEs to find a good training provider that will “realise the scale of the company but still deliver the experience for the apprentice”.

He added: “I can’t see any reason why SMEs can’t compete with larger companies. They may have a well-known brand but SMEs have a local element.

“Working for a local company can give apprentices the chance to have a big impact when you may be only one of six members of staff. When we have hundreds of apprentices the impact they have is localised within an area in which they’re based, similar to an apprentice at an SME. However, if you are in a small team of six or seven the impact you have is very visible.”