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HomeServe boss says Government apprenticeship pledge does not go far enough

Richard Harpin, the founder and CEO of home repairs and improvement business @HomeServeUK

Richard Harpin, the founder and CEO of home repairs and improvement business @HomeServeUK, says the Government’s move to increase support for firms taking on a young apprentice to £3K in total does not go far enough.  Research undertaken by @CheckaTrade suggests the figure would need to be closer to £7K to have an impact.

Walsall-based HomeServe has its own academy for training apprenticeships based in Nottingham and is about to launch the HomeServe Foundation, a charity focused on supporting firms that take on apprentices and lobbying for the right  conditions.  

The CEO of home repairs and improvements business HomeServe, says the Government must tackle the impending youth unemployment crisis by committing to increased investment into apprenticeship skills. 

While welcoming yesterday’s decision to increase financial support for apprentices aged 16-18 from £1,000 to £3,000, with incremental incentives for other age groups, Richard Harpin says the move still does not go far enough to make taking on a young trainee an affordable option for the vast majority of small firms operating in the trade sector. 

Richard said a figure closer to £7,000 could tip the balance delivering a dramatic boost to the apprenticeship system and allowing the UK to bridge the growing skills gap and create much-needed youth employment. 

Richard Harpin said: “We wholeheartedly support the Government’s ambition of an apprenticeship guarantee for every young person coupled with increased financial support, it’s a welcome step in the right direction. But our research suggests what’s currently on the table is unlikely to have the impact the Government is hoping to see. 

“Our members are small businesses themselves.  They have told us cost is the biggest single disincentive to taking on and nurturing an apprentice.   

“Without meaningful investment in future skills now, I fear the Government is in danger of missing a golden opportunity to impact the lives of talented young people into the future.” 

Gas boiler service and repairs engineer Danny Tickner, 53, who runs his own Checkatrade-listed business Samsian Ltd, from his home-town of Borough Green, agrees.  

He supported his 21-year-old son Sam through a plumbing and gas apprenticeship and says the costs were almost prohibitive. 

Danny said: “If I had known what I know now about how much it was going to cost me, I probably wouldn’t have done it.  The cost is the major factor and a huge disincentive for small businesses because you also have to factor in the fact that you could be taking longer to complete jobs because you have to show your apprentice the ropes for two to three years. That has a big impact on a small firm like mine. 

“Financial support from the Government to help pay the wages of apprenticeships would be a very welcome step.” 

According to recent statistics, a staggering one third of all 18-24-year-olds have lost jobs or been furloughed during the Covid-19 crisis. With the furlough scheme coming to an end, there is a fear this age group is on course to be the hardest hit. 

Meanwhile, the number of young people embarking apprenticeships has fallen by over 20% since 2015 to below 400,000. The numbers are still going down but according to Checkatrade research, demand for skills like plumbing and construction is going up.

Later this year, HomeServe is launching a not-for-profit Foundation to encourage and make it easier for employers in the sector to take on and train more apprentices to a high standard. 

The HomeServe Foundation will also campaign for more investment and a reduction in the complex paperwork that surrounds the scheme. 

Helen Booth, Director of the HomeServe Foundation, said: “The pandemic coupled with Brexit, means the stakes are higher than ever before. Young people need the opportunities that apprenticeships can bring, and as we gear up for life outside of the European Union, the UK must build the skills we have got used to attracting from other countries. 

“We plan to do whatever it takes to encourage and support employers and their apprentices as we build the skills for the future.” 

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