By Daniel Hunter

One in six businesses (15%) has an apprenticeship scheme and most of them (60% of those with a scheme) have, in the past year, employed someone full time following an apprenticeship.

The trend is more pronounced in the case of medium-sized businesses (employing between 51 and 250 people) with more than two-thirds (70%) of those offering apprenticeships having hired former apprentices as full-time employees.

These are the main findings of The Apprenticeship Survey from BDRC Continental, which looks at attitudes of UK companies to hiring apprentices. The results have been released in the run-up to the sixth annual National Apprenticeship Week, which starts on Monday March 11th and celebrates the positive impact apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses and the economy.

Nearly half of the companies interviewed (48%) said that they are aware of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), the Government agency that co-ordinates apprenticeships in England. This awareness was the highest among SMEs with between six and 250 employees.

Half of the businesses (49%) surveyed thought that the NAS £1,500 grant money (announced November 2011) offered an incentive to help firms take on apprentices (16% felt it definitely encouraged businesses; 33% that it possibly encouraged them). This view was stronger among companies with a current apprenticeship scheme in place. Furthermore, there are indications that two-thirds of companies that have plans to start recruiting apprentices soon, could be encouraged by the £1,500 grant.

“The message from our survey is that there is a strong foundation of support for apprenticeships, which could be harnessed by doing more to raise awareness of the UK Government’s support for them through the National Apprenticeship Service, and also raising awareness of incentives available for hiring young apprentices," Shiona Davies , Director at BDRC Continental, said.

“Nine out of ten businesses (89%), whether they have apprentices or not, feel that such schemes are a great way of investing in and developing future employees, and eight out of ten think they are a good way to tackle youth unemployment (81%). It is also encouraging to note that half (50%) of companies with a current apprenticeship programme have said that they would take on additional apprentices if they could find more suitable candidates.

"Key concerns about apprenticeships appear to be the time needed to train them (mentioned by 54% of those who do not currently have an apprenticeship scheme) and how they could be used in the business (mentioned by 57% with no current scheme). Yet fewer than one in five of those with a scheme agree that these are issues for concern.”

Overall, one in six (15%) companies in the UK have an apprenticeship scheme in place with more than one in ten (11%) currently employing an apprentice through that programme. A further one tenth (10%) of UK companies plan to start taking on apprentices soon, although they currently do not operate any apprenticeship scheme. The incidence of apprenticeship schemes is higher for medium sized organisations (11 to 250 employees) and large corporates (251 employees and above). In these segments, around one quarter of these companies (ranging from 23% to 27%) currently run an apprenticeship scheme.

Greater London looks set to lead fresh momentum in taking on apprentices. Among Greater London companies currently not running any kind of apprenticeship scheme, one in four (26%) have expressed an interest to start taking on apprentices soon.

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