By Daniel Hunter

To mark the launch of National Apprenticeship Week 2015, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on whoever forms the next Government to make completing the overhaul of apprenticeships a top priority.

Following a year of progress on apprenticeship reform involving many organisations, the FSB is setting a challenge at the start of National Apprenticeship Week to continue this work into the new Parliament.

The decision to reform the way apprenticeships are funded, a gradual increase in the apprentice minimum wage and reaching the two million apprentices target, are all significant changes made in the last year. However, more work is needed to convince small businesses that apprenticeships are a wise investment, and young people that they offer long-term career prospects.

The FSB - in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) - is holding a series of seminars around the UK. These will highlight the benefits of employing an apprentice to businesses and outline the support available.

John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: “High quality apprenticeships are vital to the future of British business, and are a fantastic way to enable young people to gain the skills they need to succeed. These seminars are an exciting way of showing off the benefits an apprentice can bring, but the next Government will need to maintain the momentum for high quality apprenticeships throughout the next Parliament, and make it easier for small firms to participate.”

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said: “Apprenticeships benefit businesses, individuals and the UK economy — while equipping people of all ages with skills beyond the classroom. As business confidence grows, we expect to see the number of apprenticeships rise. We are delighted to be working with the National Apprenticeship Service and the Federation of Small Businesses to deliver a series of events that promote apprenticeships amongst the business community.”

In its manifesto for the 2015-2020 Government, the FSB is calling for the Government to introduce reforms to the apprenticeships system to make it easier and more cost effective for employers to use. This should include measures to promote apprenticeships to small businesses in clear and simple language, taking account of small firms’ needs to help them train young people in the skills they require.