The skills shortage in the UK is becoming a real issue especially when it comes to helping SMEs grow or even get started. According to research carried out by Close Brothers, nearly one-third of UK SME leaders believe that their business does not have a full set of skills covered by employees.
55% of UK SMEs think that even if they could fill the gap they wouldn’t be able to find anyone suitable, this is because of the 43% skill shortage in their sector or the 12% shortage in the region.
So, could investing in young talent be the answer to your prayers? Surprisingly the Close Brothers Barometer has shown that just 5% of businesses who are planning on hiring new staff in 2016 will consider an apprentice.
In a survey of 900 SMEs 75% do not have an apprentice programme in place and 52% are not planning to start one. In cases where SME leaders said they would consider taking on an apprentice they are choosing not to because they are stuck; 49% said it was because of the cost, 19% said it is because of the issues dealing with red tape and 14% say it is because they don’t have the time to train and prepare for one.
Recent reports have shown that the thin line that SMEs sit on has been pushed by many macroeconomic issues, which are affecting their capability to actually hire an apprentice. Great British Pounds are still affecting exports, meaning the increase in rates is producing a doubt regarding borrowing.
Whilst the Bank of England stands still with their decision to preserve interest rates at 0.5% for the ongoing 80th month, rumours regarding when the rise will eventually come has continued to spiral. The speculations have fallen down the list of the Government’s agenda, the reports have said that this is a negative impact on the growth of SMEs, causing a lack of money to contribute on hiring.
According to the CEO of Close Brothers, Banking Division;
“Despite a clear need for more skilled workers, hiring apprentices to fill this gap simply isn’t possible for the majority of SMEs.
“Through the thousands of SMEs we work with across the UK, we see the issues of cost, red tape and a lack of time affecting their ability to hire the entry-level candidates they need. The recent moves by the government, including the apprenticeship levy, to grow the number and quality of apprenticeships are very welcome.
“Big businesses have a crucial role to play in bridging the skills gap and hiring young people through apprenticeships but, we know from this research and out own experience, SMEs need more support if they are to do the same.”
So why should you invest in an apprentice?
Apprenticeships are no longer seen as a negative thing for young people to do, the reputation surrounding them now is more about the positive digital skills that can be acquired rather than the ancient theory ‘apprentices make the teas and coffees.’ Apprenticeships have definitely made a change to the SME world, they are providing skills at an inexpensive cost. The age of an apprentice varies from 16 years old to 25, a wide age gap filled with fresh eyes and ideas – and if it is a digital skills shortage that is causing you an issue then you would be opening yourself up to the generation of digital and mobile.
According to the Guardian, in the past year employers have seen an increase in productivity with apprentices, and it isn’t just productivity, the simplest of things such as; morale can help your businesses which is apparently a given when taking on an apprentice.