By Marcus Leach

Business Secretary Vince Cable today (Wednesday) announced new measures to ensure more young people benefit from an apprenticeship, and to help employers gain the skilled workers they need to grow.

As part of the Government’s plan for growth, Ministers are taking action to make it easier for companies to take on apprentices, and ensure that the quality of apprenticeships is continually improved.

He told businesses in London today that the Government would slash the red tape that can deter hard pressed firms from taking on apprentices, and provide a financial incentive to help the smallest firms recruit their first young apprentices.

The following measures to further strengthen the UK’s world class apprenticeships programme were announced today:

· To encourage thousands of small firms that don’t currently hire apprentices to take on a young apprentice aged 16 to 24, the Government will offer employers with up to 50 employees an incentive payment of up to £1,500. This will support up to 20,000 new apprenticeships in 2012/13. An initial payment will be made two months after the individual has started their apprenticeship; the balance will be paid after the apprenticeship has been completed and the trainee has progressed into sustainable employment.

· Processes will be simplified to make it quicker and easier for employers to take on an apprentice. The National Apprenticeships Service and training providers will be required to ensure that every employer is in a position to advertise a vacancy within one month of deciding to take on an apprentice. Health and safety requirements will be streamlined so that there are no additional demands on employers that already meet national standards.

· There will be a renewed focus on targeting the programme where apprenticeships deliver greatest value - including on younger adults, new employees, higher level qualifications and particular sectors where they can make the greatest impact.

· Apprenticeship providers will be required to offer training in English and Maths up to the standard of a good GCSE (level 2) for all apprenticeships.

A new review into the standards and quality of apprenticeships will be undertaken by a leading employer. Reporting in spring 2012, the review will help ensure Government works effectively with training providers and businesses to continually raise the standards of all apprenticeships, and that training keeps pace with the changing needs of industry.

“The apprenticeships programme is a success story, with record numbers of learners starting an apprenticeship this year. But I have listened to employers, and will go further to ensure that investment is targeted where impact is greatest, delivering the specific skills businesses need to drive growth," Business Secretary Vince Cable said.

“Apprenticeships are proven to boost the life chances of young people, and are a sound investment in our future competitiveness. So when times are tough, it’s right that we provide additional support to help the smallest firms meet training costs.

“We’ll cut no corners on quality. Apprenticeships will remain the gold standard for excellence in vocational training — but where red tape serves no purpose, we’ll strip it away."

Today’s announcements are part of the government’s growth review. Building on the programme of reforms set out in the first Plan for Growth, the next stage of the review is focusing on education and skills, infrastructure, logistics, mid-sized businesses, rural economy and open data. More details and actions will be announced later this month.

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