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East Midlands Chamber News

Business to identify barriers to recruiting apprentices

Businesses are being asked to identify their biggest concerns about recruiting apprentices.

East Midlands Chamber, which employs apprentices and is also a successful apprenticeship provider, is using its Quarterly Economic Survey for the final three months of 2017 to delve deeper into why firms don’t make more of this form of training.

The survey follows recent research by the British Chambers of Commerce which found that many businesses were struggling to understand the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy.

What the researchers at Middlesex University found was that 23% of levy-paying firms had no understanding of how it worked. That figure rose to 66% of non-levy-paying firms.

And 15% of respondents said they didn’t expect to recover any of the added cost while 36% said they expected to recover all of it and possibly more. Almost nine-out-of-ten (86%) of firms said the levy scheme had increased their overall costs.

Commenting on that research, Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at East Midlands Chamber, said: “Worryingly, what this research shows is that, at one end of the scale, there are firms paying additional costs for something they don’t understand and don’t ever expect to see a return for and, at the other end, the very firms which should be taking money out of the pot to fund apprenticeships seem to have no idea how it works.

“It seems that since implementing the levy, the Government has simply left firms to work out for themselves what they are supposed to do instead of making sure they fully understand it and how to maximise its potential.

“We have the expertise to help members make the most of the levy and, rather than ignore it, we would urge them to call us so that we can talk them through it.”

To better understand why businesses are not making more of apprenticeships, the Chamber has added four questions to the Q4 QES:
•What are the biggest barriers you face when deciding to take on an apprentice?
•Where would you go to find out more about apprenticeships?
•What one thing could the National Apprenticeship Service do to better engage with your business?
•What do you need more information about?

Chris Hobson, the Chamber’s Director of Policy, said: “For a few years, the concept of apprenticeships took on a negative connotation, somehow not as good as a university education, but for a very long time before that they were regarded as the best way to learn a skill and be paid for your training.

“The situation has now gone back to where it should have been all along, which is recognising that apprenticeships help to close the county’s appalling skills gap between what employers need and what is offered by those leaving academia.

“But the delivery method changed at the beginning of this financial year with the introduction of the Levy and it seems that businesses have yet to fully grasp how it works.

“What we want to do is find out where any confusion lies, what the barriers are to recruiting apprentices and, once we have that information, devise a programme to help firms make better use of the whole apprenticeship system.”

Firms don’t have to be Chamber members to take part in the Quarterly Economic Survey. To take part visit http://bit.ly/2ym44Ay.