From education to employment

Spring Budget boost for apprenticeships would be welcome, but SMEs MUST seize this opportunity now

Helen Booth, Director of the HomeServe Foundation

Increasing incentives for SME businesses and sole traders to invest in a new generation of skilled workers are critical if the UK has the best possible chance to bounce back from the overwhelming impacts of COVID.

SMEs and sole traders make up 99 per cent of all businesses in the UK. In the trades sector, for example, 60 per cent of all home repairs work including boiler installation is done by firms with nine or fewer workers.

They need help to pass on their skills and plan for growth, so the proposed increase in incentives to take on apprentices in England and Wales to £3,000, expected in the Budget would be very welcome. We know cost is one of the key barriers for these employers.

An injection of a further £126million in skills by the Chancellor would provide opportunities to breathe new life into our economy. We hope this extra financial support does become a reality in the Spring Budget on Wednesday and, if so, we’d encourage UK SMEs to seize the short-term opportunity to create the jobs people so desperately need, particularly young people under 25.

The ONS recently reported that unemployment rates have had the biggest annual rise since the financial crisis, apprenticeships starts have fallen dramatically, and we are now facing a serious skills shortage, particularly for trade skills the country needs for its post-COVID recovery plans for years to come. This must be addressed in the Chancellor’s statement.

If these increased incentives for apprenticeships come into play, employers could only have until the end of September to take advantage of the extra financial support, so it’s crucial they take steps now.

This year’s Spring Budget comes at a critical time for the UK. Despite the news that restrictions are likely to be eased over the coming months, we still face one of the most challenging periods in our history as we seek a strong post-Covid recovery. Now is the time for the government to act and for the nation’s SMEs and industries to react and seize the opportunities.

Helen Booth, Director of the HomeServe Foundation 

Related Articles