FSB tells new Education Secretary to focus on apprenticeships

Gavin Williamson

Less than 24 hours into the job, Boris Johnson’s new Secretary of State for Education  Gavin Williamson has been urged to focus on apprenticeships.

The FSB has told him it’s crucial that he does so, since not only has the number of apprenticeships in smaller firms declined, but the funding for these apprenticeships is about to run out.

Throughout the 2018/19 academic year, new apprenticeship starts were only marginally up (6.6%) on the same period for the previous year, but this compares to a 30 per cent fall from the year before the reforms.

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “As more large businesses use up their levy funds, the apprenticeship funding system will become unable to cope with the demand.

“Apprenticeship funding needs to be urgently shored up to ensure that small firms are still able to take on apprentices and are not excluded from the system. The complexities and challenges in the system need to be addressed as well. Despite the increase in the uptake this academic year, progress remains sluggish and Level 2 apprenticeships are in decline.

“The new Education Secretary must use this moment to address the issues that the apprenticeship system and small businesses face. Unless urgent action is taken now, many small firms will simply be unable to afford to take on an apprentice, which will only see numbers fall even further.

“If we are to address the persistent skills shortages and gaps that are damaging growth and productivity, then we must prevent apprenticeships becoming an opportunity only open to those who can afford it.”