This week marks National Apprenticeship Week in the UK. Here Robert Halfon, Apprenticeships and Skills Minister talks to HRreview about the measures being taken to ensure a successful apprenticeship system is built in the UK.

I am passionate that we build an apprenticeship system in England that works for everyone – no matter what age or what background. This is because apprenticeships provide people with a ladder of opportunity, to get the skills, training and jobs for their future. In fact, around 90 per cent of all apprentices go on to further learning or get jobs.

Apprenticeships also provide huge benefits for small businesses like yours. They can help you to gain the skilled, home-grown workforce I know many of you are crying out for, and inject fresh ideas and enthusiasm into your business.

This is not just my view though – it’s the view of small and medium enterprises up and down the country. New figures we have published today show that:

  • More than 24,000 private sector small and medium enterprises (SMEs) reported that hiring an apprentice has actually helped them win business
  • 74 per cent of SMEs that employ apprentices report increased productivity thanks to apprenticeships
  • Nearly all (96 per cent) SMEs report benefits to hiring an apprentice

And many more companies are set to reap the rewards of an apprenticeship over the next 12 months – with more than 200,000 new apprentices set to be recruited by SMEs.

But I know we still have work to do in raising the status of apprenticeships and making sure they are a viable alternative to traditional education. Some of you also still aren’t sure whether they are right for your business too – with our figures showing that almost three quarters of SMEs still remain to be convinced about the merits of apprenticeships.

Since I started my role as Apprenticeships and Skills Minister I have been working tirelessly to make sure apprenticeships are viewed as a prestigious option – and an effective way for businesses to gain the tools they need. The Get In Go Far campaign is an essential part of this.  With a new wave launching today, we will be sharing some fantastic success stories of SMEs who have benefited from apprenticeships.

We are also highlighting the apprenticeship support available for those firms not paying the apprenticeship levy.  This offer – which we have simplified into the ‘STEP’ support – consists of:

  • SUPPORT: The government pays 90% of an SME’s training and assessment costs for the lifetime of the apprenticeship, any age, any level (up to funding band maximum)
  • TEEN GRANT: An extra £1,000 grant will be paid to any SME who takes on a 16-18 year old,or a 19-24 year old that has previously been in care
  • ENTREPRENEUR OFFER: Businesses with under 50 staff will also see 100% of training and assessment costs paid for if they recruit an apprentice aged 16-18
  • PROVISION FOR ADDITIONAL SUPPORT:For SMEs who take on those with additional learning needs further support is also available


As well as this new support – available to SMEs from 1st May 2017 – here are four more reasons why there has never been a better time for a company like yours to take on an apprentice:

  1. Increase productivity

Apprenticeships work. 3 in 4 SMEs told us they saw an increase in productivity from employing an apprentice, whilst 72% said an apprentice improved their product or service quality.

  1. Fresh perspectives and digital skills

In my travels up and down the country I’ve met some remarkable apprentices – bursting with creativity and enthusiasm. They also come with energy and ideas, actively contributing to a business’ development.

  1. Grow your own talent

This government has introduced reforms to put employers in the driving seat when it comes to apprenticeship training. New standards are designed by employers, for employers – and you can tailor the training to meet the individual needs of your business.

  1. Business sense

Apprentices can also you give you the cutting edge over your competitors. Last year more than 24,000 private sector SMEs reported that hiring an apprentice actually helped them win business.

I truly believe that apprenticeships will be one of the greatest success stories of the decade. And I truly hope your business joins in this story and takes advantage of everything they have to offer.


Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.