Pledge to improve apprenticeships

Boosting awareness among small and medium sized employers is key to unlocking the economic benefits of apprenticeships, the Government has been told.

Jason Holt, a jeweller and social entrepreneur commissioned by ministers to review ways to make apprenticeships simpler and more accessible, said smaller employers often had "outdated" views on the schemes.

He recommended the Government improve communication about apprenticeships, shift the balance of influence towards employers taking on apprentices and away from providers of training schemes, and simplify the system.

Ministers, including Education Secretary Michael Gove and Business Secretary Vince Cable, welcomed the Holt Review, and committed to taking measures to improve apprenticeships.

These will include modifying the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE), agreeing new standards for training providers, and improving communication about schemes - including via groups such as lawyers, who advise small and medium employers.

Publishing his report, Mr Holt said: "Whilst apprenticeships offer undoubted growth opportunities for businesses, not enough SMEs are taking advantage.

"This is because they have an outdated view of apprenticeships, are often in the dark, and frequently do not receive the specific training provision their apprentices need. My recommendations are intended to address these issues with Government, employers and providers all playing a part."

Mr Gove said: "I am very grateful to Jason Holt for the considerable time and effort he has devoted to producing his report. He is certainly right that we need to give employers, and not training providers, the power and freedom to shape their apprenticeships, and make the process as simple as possible for every employer."

In its detailed response to the review, the Government said its refinements to the £1,500 AGE would involve delivering it in a single payment, rather than the current two. Employers will be able to claim grants for up to 10 apprentices, and the scheme will be opened to employers who have not hired an apprentice in the past year.

Medium sized employers, who have between 250 and 1,000 employees, will be eligible to claim the grant. Business owner Paul Killingsworth said: "My apprentices, along with my trained technicians, are an investment in the development and future of my business."