By Daniel Hunter

New research findings from Barclays Corporate Banking’s Job Creation Survey suggests that small companies with a turnover of less than £5 million are lagging behind in the creation of apprenticeships. Only 19% are likely to take on an apprentice, compared to an average of 41% amongst businesses of every other size.

These small businesses are missing out on the many benefits that an apprentice can bring to productivity and talent development. A recent CEBR report has found that companies taking on an apprentice typically gain a £214 per week productivity boost.

The Barclays survey also revealed that only 12% of the smallest firms are planning to increase the amount of apprentices they take on, compared to an average increase of 19%, for all other business sizes.

Previous research from Barclays has revealed that more than half (52 per cent) of the SMEs asked would not take on an additional apprentice due to fears about the amount of time it takes to set up and the additional support they thought a young person would need. In particular 39 per cent of micro companies (5-9 employees) cited red tape as the most significant barrier.

Encouragingly 76% of SMEs said they would want to be part of a scheme that helped set up apprenticeships for young people.

Supporting smaller businesses overcome the perceived barriers to taking on apprentices is the aim of LifeSkills:Bridges into Work, a new programme designed to support 10,000 young people into work. The programme will help small businesses access grants, find applicants, and train young people ahead of the role.

“It’s encouraging to see that many companies, like Barclays, are planning to take on more apprentices in 2013, but with small business accounting for around half of the UK’s GDP it is really important that they do not miss out on the benefits that apprentices bring to organisations of all sizes," Ashok Vaswani, Chief Executive of Barclays Retail and Business Banking, said.

“The success of our own programme has encouraged us to double the number of apprentices we take on to 2,000, and to launch a new programme aimed at helping other businesses to reap the same rewards. Barclays Bridges into Work aims to help 10,000 young people into work by providing businesses with the advice and support they need to establish apprenticeships and recruit work-ready candidates.”

Following five successful Bridges into Work launch events in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, and pilot events in Romford and Stoke, 200 businesses have already pledged to get involved.

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