Small firms urged to recruit apprentices and create opportunities for growth

Small firms have been urged to take on apprentices to safeguard the UKs manufacturing future.

The call came from Stephen Hodges, Close Brothers Banking Division Chief Executive. He was speaking at the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre, during the launch of the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme.

The new Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme is designed to help small firms that might otherwise find it difficult to take on an apprentice and has the support of the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA).

Under the scheme, Close Brothers will fund half of an apprentices wages in the first year and a quarter in the second year, for 20 companies. The cost of training at the AMRC Training Centre will also be covered and there will be additional support with recruitment and mentoring.

Stephen Hodges told attendees: “Apprenticeships promote company loyalty, close the skills gap and provide companies with their leaders of tomorrow.

“Finding appropriate staff and a UK-wide skills shortage are the two main issues facing the economy today, but most companies cite finding time, red tape and financial burden as barriers to taking on an apprentice.”

“The opportunity SMEs have with the AMRC Training Centre is perfect; they have world-class facilities, an exceptionally high standard of training and our funding programme will help with the cost of hiring those apprentices. Together we are encouraging a fresh approach that will add real value to SMEs in the future.”

Among those attending the event was Emma Cavill, Group HR Manager at Cooper & Turner Ltd industrial fastener manufacturer, whose products are used across sectors that include structural engineering, tunnelling rail, wind energy and oil and gas. She emphasised the benefits of training apprentices:

“Having apprentices is completely worth the risk and any reservations you may have,” said Emma.

“We currently have six AMRC apprentices with us in business administration, technical support and tooling already and love the commitment the AMRC make to the apprentices and our company.

“They not only increase the skill level of your company benefitting your existing staff, but also increase staff morale, as they see you are investing in your company development.

Precision CNC machining specialist Senex Engineering is hoping to become one of the first 20 companies to take on an apprentice in September under the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme. Director, Claire Lenthall said: “We were interested in taking on an apprentice but have previously found the experience quite demanding.

“As we are a small company, we need an apprentice that requires less input from us. The extended programme at the AMRC Training Centre would take the pressure off us teaching them the ropes in the beginning, helping them have the relevant knowledge before starting with us fulltime.”

Small firms urged to recruit apprentices and create opportunities for growth

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