PM could harm SMEs with apprenticeship transformation initiative » SMEInsider

PM could harm SMEs with apprenticeship transformation initiative

The BCC has criticised David Cameron’s plans to transform the apprenticeship sector, stating that by encouraging SMEs to hire more apprentices, he is making them ‘‘jump through hoops’’ to please the public sector.

Transformation or devastation?

In late August, Prime Minister David Cameron outlined his plans to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

One of the measures that is to be put in place is a new requirement to take into account apprenticeship schemes when awarding businesses with large government accounts (contracts worth over £10m). Employers’ bids will be reviewed in line with best practice for the number of apprentices that they expect to support.

Cameron explained his thinking behind the rule, stating that employers should be investing more in their workforce.

‘‘The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce. And by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business.’’

The plans have already been criticised by a number of industry bodies, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which stated that quality shouldn’t be sacrificed for quantity when trying to improve the apprenticeship sector.

‘‘While we did not support the introduction of a levy, the key thing now is that the apprenticeships it delivers meet business demand and give young people routes to great careers and higher pay,’’ said a CBI statement.

‘‘Quality, not quantity’’

The BCC shares the CBI’s viewpoint. Adam Marshall, executive director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce has made his feelings clear regarding the government contract rule, stating that it would in fact add to the red tape that Cameron hopes to reduce.

‘‘Everyone wants to see more high quality apprenticeship places being created but adding red tape and bureaucracy to government procurement opportunities isn’t the way to make it happen,’’ stated Marshall.

Marshall then moved on to the subject of SMEs, stating that small and medium sized businesses could suffer from the legal change.

‘‘Small and medium size businesses in particular would view this as yet another hoop they have to jump through in the already complex world of doing business with the public sector.’’

‘‘Businesses up and down Britain agree that the best way to increase the number of apprenticeships is to focus relentlessly on their quality, and by ensuring that they are viewed as positively as academic qualifications by employers.’’