AAT study reports positive SME take-up of apprenticeships

Smaller businesses throughout England are embracing apprenticeships, with nine out of 10 that have taken on apprentices saying they have boosted productivity, according to a new study from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

The study showed that businesses appreciate the value apprenticeships can bring to them, with 97% saying that taking on apprentices has been good value for money for them, nine out of ten (90%) saying they have boosted their productivity, and 63% saying that they bring staff members who are more suited to their businesses and the skills they need.

The average number of apprentices taken on by these businesses in the past two years is three, with one in five (19%) saying they’ve taken on five or more, according to the AAT study.

Seventy-eight percent say that the number of apprentices they’ve taken on in the past five years has grown. In a signal of satisfaction, 96% of those questioned say that they are very likely or quite likely to take on more apprentices in the next two years.

The AAT study also reported that 55% of respondents said that they prefer to recruit apprentices, compared to 32% who prefer university graduates. Fifty-seven percent also said that apprenticeships are the best pathway into the industry in which their business primarily operates, versus 18% who said a university degree is the best.

On average, the businesses who have taken on apprentices say they have offered to keep on 61% of them after they finished their apprenticeship, with one in five (21%) saying they have offered to keep on all the apprentices they have ever taken on.

Four-fifths of the small- and medium-sized owners and senior workers (83%) say that apprentices have added value to their business within six months of taking them on.

Rob Alder, head of business development at the AAT, said: “Although there have been some negative comments on the impact of the government’s apprenticeships reforms, our research shows that there are still many positives in training an apprentice and it is good to see that reflected in the SME market.”

“Our research shows that England’s small businesses hugely endorse apprentices within their own firms and value the benefits apprentices can bring to them. Those who have taken on apprentices are happy with them, and even those who haven’t yet taken any on are making plans to do so.”

Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, commented: “We wholeheartedly believe that apprenticeships work—not just for apprentices themselves, but businesses of all shapes and sizes, across all industries, sectors and job roles, and for people of all ages.”

“AAT’s research demonstrates the positive impact that apprenticeships have on small businesses in England. For people considering their first—or next—career, an apprenticeship can equip you with the skills and on-the-job training that you will require, while we hope other company owners will consider how taking on apprentices can boost their business.”

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