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Vince Cable Urges Small Firms To Offer Apprenticeships

Business Secretary Thinks Larger Firms Have Benefited From Training Schemes


Steven Beahan, Partner | +44 (0)114 294 7868

Small companies would benefit in the long term if they hired more apprentices, business secretary Vince Cable believes.

The uptake of training programmes among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has been relatively poor and Mr Cable is keen to reverse this trend.

Speaking to HR Magazine, he suggested that larger organisations have reaped the rewards of recruiting youngsters and allowing them to learn a new trade.

"For those SMEs who just take one or two people a year it's a big step, which is why we need to promote this idea," he was quoted as saying.

There are certain sectors of the UK economy where skills gaps are becoming a big problem.

The government has attempted to remedy this by introducing various schemes and incentives to encourage more businesses to hire apprentices.

For example, in June 2013 prime minister David Cameron launched an initiative aimed at nurturing an additional 100,000 engineers by 2018. This is one area where skills shortages are particularly pronounced.

Mr Cable insisted the government was looking to make apprenticeships more appealing to youngsters by increasing the minimum wage.

However, this will be difficult, as small employers might be put off from offering such schemes if they are forced to pay more money.

"So there's a tricky balance to be struck, and at the moment the real need is to get SMEs to offer apprenticeships and not just the larger companies," he told the news provider.

The business secretary feels schoolchildren would benefit from better careers advice.

He suggested there is a "disconnect" between the support youngsters receive when leaving the education system and entering full-time employment. This situation is something that needs to be worked on, Mr Cable added.

There are instances where schools are focussing too much on preparing children for their A-levels and then university, rather than explaining what other options are available to them. Additionally, Mr Cable stated there are some schools that do careers advice very well, while in other places it is "non-existent". 

Expert Opinion
The Government has placed a strong emphasis on the important role that SMEs have to play in helping the ongoing economic recovery and the comments here indicate that a focus remains on ensuring that such businesses can achieve their true potential.

"Apprenticeships should not be viewed as purely the reserve of large organisations and smaller firms need to be get wise to the fact that they could acquire key skills not often available on the open market by taking this route.

"Quite simply, apprenticeships are both cost-effective and an excellent approach for developing both a skills and loyal workforce.

"Of course, a key issue for SMEs to bear in mind that any growth – including the expansion of workforce – can create some growing pains. Support from experts including lawyers can help to mitigate such issues, with legal specialists specifically being able to advice on staff policies and employment law compliance."
Steven Beahan, Partner