UK business urged to take apprentice grants

At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, the government is urging British businesses to take up the new Apprentice Grant for Employers (AGE) scheme offering a £2,500 grant for each 16 or 17-year-old apprentice taken on.

Supermarket Morrisons is to create 20,000 apprenticeships in the next year, while Crossrail is to take on 400 apprentices and B&Q says it aims to double the its apprenticeship intake to 300 this September.

Business minister Pat McFadden says: “For so many businesses to be planning to recruit in 2010 is good news for the whole economy. It shows employers increasingly recognise the benefits they get from hiring apprentices. Undertaking an apprenticeship is a great way of learning a trade and gaining vocational experience.

“In 1997 apprenticeships had dwindled as a route for people to gain new skills, today we have 239,900 starting apprenticeships and businesses of all sizes are reaping the rewards of having a highly skilled workforce.”

Apprenticeships minister Kevin Brennan says: “In the last year we have seen a record increase in the number of people starting an apprenticeship. The benefits are clear and this week I am urging businesses and young people alike to take a close look at what they can gain from them.

“Skills will be key to the recovery of the UK economy and apprentices can be vital to businesses looking to innovate and grow.”

Simon Waugh, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, says: “The time is absolutely right for businesses of all sizes to take on apprentices. Our research shows that firms who take on apprentices have been in great shape to face the downturn. Last year saw a 7% increase in apprentices; that’s 240,000 young people freshly into the jobs market, with the determination to succeed.

David Frost, director-general from the British Chambers of Commerce, says: “The recession has taught us two key things: that businesses’ long-term commitment to investment in their workforce really pays off, and that young people must be effectively brought into employment. Apprenticeship programmes offer both of these factors.”