By Daniel Hunter
Small and medium sized employers looking to offer apprenticeships in England have been given a boost as the National Apprenticeship Service announces moves to help even more employers recruit an apprentice.
The government has confirmed an extension of the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16-24 year olds (AGE 16-24) to March 2014. The £1,500 grant is available to help businesses with fewer than 1000 employees take on an apprentice.
Initially only on offer during the 2012/13 financial year, the funding has been extended following a positive response from employers. It has also been increased, so eligible employers can claim the grant for up to ten apprentices.
“I know it can be a big decision for busy, small companies to take on an apprentice," Business Secretary, Vince Cable said.
"Employers may be concerned about the time recruitment and training will take, and anxious about how it will work. So the £1500 grant is a token to acknowledge this and thank employers. I hope many more people will take us up on our cash incentive to grow their business, and train up the workforce of the future.”
The announcement times with the start of a new nationwide radio advertising campaign to encourage more employers to take on an apprentice and to highlight the availability of the AGE grant.
The National Apprenticeship Service adverts, which will run across national and regional commercial stations in January and February, reinforce the quality of apprenticeships and how they are helping businesses to grow. This is done through the personal accounts of eight employers: Mediacom, J A Cliff Building Services, North York Moors National Park, FCO Services, Barlows UK Ltd, Visa Europe, TMB Patterns and Persona HR.
“We know that many businesses believe Apprenticeships deliver the skills needed for growth so we are delighted AGE 16-24 has been positively received by employers for helping them to do just that," David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, said.
“Apprenticeships come with a guarantee of quality, giving young people a job with training, and are proven to deliver a significant return on investment, so this really is a win-win initiative for employers. There has never been a better time to recruit an apprentice, so I hope more organisations will look at how they can benefit from this grant over the coming 12 months and reap the rewards of a more motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.”
Dr Tehir Nadeem, owner of the Solihull Dental Practice, who was one of the first small businesses to benefit from the AGE 16-24 grant, said: “AGE 16-24 has made the worthwhile decision to hire an apprentice even more cost effective. The grant helped meet the costs of taking on a new member of staff; in effect the grant is being re-invested into the business, to help it grow.”
Furthermore, David Barlow, training & development director at Barlows UK, a medium sized enterprise that features in the radio campaign, said: “Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity to bring enthusiastic young people in to a business and train them with the skills that exactly meet the organisation’s needs. Apprentices are a true asset to our workforce and I passionately believe more employers should hire them.”
And to further support businesses, the National Apprenticeship Service has announced a minimum level of support employers can expect from the Service. A new Service Standard offers an end-to-end commitment by NAS to responsiveness during initial call handling, to analysing need, referral to providers and an after-service follow up review from their dedicated team.
Providers who receive referrals as part of the service from the NAS will by implication also be signing up to the minimum expectations especially in terms of responding promptly to the referred employers, posting information to the Apprenticeship vacancies system and in terms of ongoing support that will be monitored by NAS.
In practice, this standard means dedicated employer teams, including SME specialists, will guide employers through a simple five-step process to hiring an apprentice:
1. Define an employer’s requirements with an expert Apprenticeship adviser.
2. Discuss the right training provider, Apprenticeship programme and confirm funding.
3. Determine the number of apprentice(s) an employer requires.
4. Drive recruitment applications through the free Apprenticeship vacancies service.
5. Decide on the right person and the apprentice starts.
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