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Take-up of apprenticeships set to rise with SMEs offering extra potential for growth

The number of people starting apprenticeships is likely to rise again this year, according to the latest figures from The Data Service - but it's not expected to be as dramatic as the 63.5 per cent increase over the previous year. So the search is on to find ways to expand the scheme further.

There were 457,200 apprenticeship starts in 2010-11 and in the first nine months of the 2011-12 academic year there have already been 383,200 apprenticeship starts.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) offer about 80 per cent of apprenticeship places. SMEs make up 99 per cent of the businesses in the UK, but only around one in ten of them currently employs apprentices. As a result, analysts have pointed out that SMEs still provide plenty of potential for growth.

As a further incentive to SMEs to take on young people, the Government recently announced enhancements to its Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16 to 24 year olds (AGE 16 to 24). The grant of £1,500 will be available for up to ten apprentices (increasing from three) in businesses with up to 1,000 employees (up from 250). On top of this, the Government funds 100 per cent of cost of training for 16 to 18 year olds and 50 per cent for 19 to 24 year olds for any size business.

Apprenticeships are paid jobs that involve training in and out of the workplace, leading to a nationally recognised qualification. Employees get to earn while they learn and obtain real skills and experience in the workplace. Employers can use apprenticeships to train new and existing employees and get funding to do so. About 70 per cent of apprentices stay with their employers after qualifying.

Research suggests that apprenticeships are becoming highly valued by employers who have signed up to the scheme. More than nine in ten employers thought that apprenticeships created a more motivated and satisfied workforce and eight in ten agreed that apprentices made their workplace more productive.

Acas advisers can help organisations on a range of staffing and recruitment issues. They can come in person, diagnose issues and tailor training solutions to an organisation's needs.

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