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UK economy could recieve 1.5bn boost if SME apprenticeship barriers were lifted

 If these young people were successful, they have the potential to boost the economy by &pound1.5 billion every year. But, currently two thirds of SMEs, which account for 99%*** of all businesses in the UK and employ 24.3 million people, say they can’t offer apprenticeships, with one in ten blaming the red tape and costs associated with setting up.

The research from LifeSkills surveyed HR decision makers in SMEs across the UK about their attitudes towards work experience and apprenticeships. Encouragingly, it found that nearly eight in ten (77%) SMEs would like to hire young people who have completed work experience or an apprenticeship, showing an appetite for work ready candidates. However, the research also demonstrated the troubles SMEs say they face in offering these schemes. These perceptions persist despite positive measures to alleviate them such as funding for businesses that offer these programmes.

Research shows the top five barriers SMEs say they face in offering apprenticeships and work experience:

&middot         Likely cost to the business

&middot         Red tape internally around setting up a programme

&middot         Lack of internal team resource to set up and manage a programme

&middot         Not relevant to my business

&middot         Unable to find suitable candidates

While two thirds of SMEs say they are struggling to offer apprenticeships or work experience, HR decision makers do consider young people who have completed such pre-employment training as highly attractive employees. Two thirds (67%) said it made candidates keen to learn and develop professionally. A third (35%) stated employees with such experience were happy to contribute to the business beyond their role and half (50%) said they made the young person ambitious.

Research shows the top five attributes businesses associate with young people who have completed work experience or apprenticeships:

&middot         Keen to learn and develop professionally – 67%

&middot         Ambitious for their career – 50%

&middot         Happy to contribute to the business beyond their direct role – 35%

&middot         Engaged with the business – 31%

&middot         Appreciation of how a business is structured and run – 27%

Kirstie Mackey, head of LifeSkills at Barclays said, “SMEs are the UK’s life blood when it comes to offering employment, but this research shows that they still perceive barriers to be able to offer on the job training or to help young people be work-ready. Not only does it create a skills gap that holds back a generation from realising their potential but also means a potential productivity gain of over &pound1.5 billion to the UK economy goes untapped.

“Businesses need support to connect with education providers and young people to offer the quality pre-employment learning opportunities that are so desperately needed. It’s why we launched LifeSkills, to connect young people to businesses that wish to offer work experience or apprenticeships but also to raise awareness of the need for more businesses to be able to offer such programmes. Only by working together will we find sustainable solutions to the challenge of youth employment.”

LifeSkills created with Barclays, was designed to help businesses connect with young people before they leave education to help them become work ready. It has practical, free resources for teachers so that young people can learn valuable skills in the classroom before they go into a business. A work experience matching portal has also been developed to connect business young people with local opportunities. For businesses looking for an apprentice, LifeSkills offers help in accessing funding, finding a candidate and training them, as well as offering a mentor through to completion of the programme. To find out more or register go to


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