With the arrival of the Apprenticeship Levy in April of this year, it is vital that SME’s take note and embrace apprenticeships. Although the 0.5 per cent payroll levy tax is compulsory for businesses spending £3 million+ on staff salaries, the positive impact that apprenticeships have on smaller businesses are numerous.
Angela Middleton, CEO of training and recruitment agency MiddletonMurray is urging SME owners to consider their apprenticeship options having witnessed first-hand the many benefits on offer.
Angela says, ‘Firstly, it’s important to note that SMEs are much nimbler than their larger, more corporate counterparts. Whereas a large corporation may have to consider factors such as graduate training scheme intakes, or even a hiring ban, smaller businesses can respond to the business needs more quickly.
‘SME’s can take on projects and grow quickly, suddenly requiring employees with varying skill-sets which makes opting for an apprentice a great option.
‘I would caution SMEs who see an apprentice as a solution for what appears to be a short-term skill shortage, however. Like taking on any member of staff, this is a long-term option and with the right fit to a business, many apprentices have gone on to climb the ranks in businesses of all sectors. An apprentice is a blank canvas who can mould and adapt to the changing needs of a business, which is why they are an invaluable asset.’
Middleton adds, ‘We often find that SMEs tend to either have had the same team for several years or are family run which may make a willingness to consider a new perspective challenging. In these instances, bringing in an apprentice can be a fantastic way of introducing a fresh perspective and outlook.
‘Similarly, hiring an apprentice is a great way to cover any skills gaps there might be in the organisation. They offer an opportunity for current staff members to learn from an apprentice, as well as the other way around.
‘Apprenticeships offer businesses the chance to hire and train someone for a specific role, perhaps in a new discipline for them, such as social media or digital marketing rather than training an existing member of the team alongside their current workload. Through speaking with an apprenticeship provider, you can discuss the business needs and work with them to hire an apprentice, with the relevant skill sets needed.’
She continues, ‘Far too often, traditional perceptions of apprenticeships lie within the manual skill sectors, but we have the highest number of apprentices in IT and business administration. With an increased focus on digital and technological developments in the workplace it makes sense to invest and future proof a business that may be lacking in digital know-how through recruiting an apprentice with an interest in that area.
‘Apprenticeship schemes can effectively pay for themselves by boosting productivity, particularly if a small business is eligible for government funding to help with the programme. From May 2017 employers, will receive a £1, 000 incentive if they recruit a 16-18-year-old.’
Middleton concludes, ‘Businesses will receive half after 3 months and the other half after the 12-month period, a sum that will no doubt motivate many employers to examine apprenticeship options and in turn encourage businesses to keep apprentices on.
‘With 2017 set to be the year of the apprenticeship we would urge small businesses to embrace the sheer amount of talent on offer and look into taking on an apprentice. It can invigorate your workforce and help to elevate an SME to the next level.’
Angela Middleton is founder and CEO of MiddletonMurray.