New research by the Association of Accounting Technicians, commissioned to tie in with the start today (Monday) of National Apprenticeship Week, shows that businesses appreciate the value apprenticeships can bring to them.

A total 85% say they have boosted productivity within their business. 49% believe that they get staff who are more suited to their businesses and the skills they need by taking them on as apprentices.

The average number of apprentices taken on by small businesses in the South East in the past two years is three, with 12% saying that they have taken on five or more.

85% say that the number of apprentices they have taken on in the past five years has grown and a similar number say they are likely to take on more apprentices in the next two years.  

Rob Alder, the AAT’s head of business development, said: “The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is Apprentices Work and our research shows that smaller businesses in the South East hugely endorse apprentices within their own firms.

“It shows that many smaller businesses value the benefits apprentices can bring to them and that apprentices can, over time be trained to meet the skill requirements the business needs.

“Those who have taken on apprentices are happy with them and even those who have not yet taken any on are making plans to do so.”

45% of the respondents said that they prefer to recruit apprentices, compared to 30% who prefer university graduates.

Almost two-thirds of those who have taken on apprentices also said that apprenticeships are the best pathway into the industry in which their business primarily operates.

Only 15% said a university degree is the best.

On average, South East businesses that have taken on apprentices say they have offered to keep on 60% of them after they finished their apprenticeship.

27% have offered to keep on all the apprentices they have ever taken on and 87%  of SME owners and senior workers say that apprentices have added value to their business within six months of taking them on.

Government websites, further education colleges and word of mouth are the main sources of information on apprenticeships and almost half of those surveyed have used funds from the Apprenticeship Levy to help train a new employee.

Of the businesses spoken to who have never taken on an apprentice, 35% still feel there are still barriers holding them back. Of those, 42% cited the cost of starting an apprenticeship scheme as the major hurdle.

Mr Alder said: “However, the fact that there are some who still feel that there are barriers to them taking on apprentices and who are having problems with costs and understanding the system shows that more still needs to be done to raise awareness and help smaller businesses especially.”

Despite there still being perceived barriers for these businesses, almost two thirds (64%) of those who have never taken on an apprentice say they are currently planning to recruit some.

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