New research by Direct Line for Business has revealed a 'chicken and egg' dilemma faced by thousands of apprentices across the UK. Two in five (40 per cent) of the SMEs surveyed cited that a lack of experience was a major barrier for young applicants in the hiring process. This is equivalent to 525,000 businesses out of the 1.3 million UK SMEs with employees in the UK.Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of SMEs said that young people often leave after a short period of time of being with the company, while a fifth (21 per cent) believe that the cost of training young employees can be prohibitive.
The research also reveals that one in six SMEs (16 per cent) in the UK generally try to avoid bringing in employees under the age of 21 as a direct result of the issues the businesses had faced in the past when hiring younger employees. Unreliability was cited as a barrier by one in five (20 per cent) SMEs, with 5 per cent saying safety risks in their line of work was another reason for not bringing in young employees.
These findings come as Direct Line’s analysis of ONS data3 reveals that there were 88,000 fewer 18-21 year olds in employment than there had been five years previously. This represents a fall of 11 per cent, from 787,000 in 2012 to 699,000 in 2016. However, the number of young people employed in skilled trade professions has remained constant, suggesting a continued willingness amongst SMEs in this sector to provide young people with job opportunities.
Gary Holmes, Product Manager, at Direct Line for Business, said: “SMEs represent the vast majority of UK businesses and are therefore the biggest opportunity for young people starting their careers, helping them to gain valuable experience. While the number of people aged between 18 and 21 in employment in the UK may be falling, it’s still refreshing to know that the trade industry is bucking the trend by continuing to give young people and apprentices an opportunity to forge a career.
“While there are some barriers that businesses feel are too great to overcome, we’re trying to ensure that no business should be prohibited from hiring young workers due to insurance issues. For example, we recently launched Telematics to help drivers under the age of 21 get the insurance they need”.