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April 13, 2012

Firms must take on apprentices for minimum of 12 months

Business owners taking on young apprentices will be required to run schemes for a minimum of 12 months under new rules unveiled by the Government.

The new standards will mean that apprenticeships for those aged 19 and over will now be required to last between one to four years while apprenticeships for 16- to 18-year-olds will need to run for a minimum of a year. 

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that the rules were being changed to “raise the bar on standards” amongst UK apprenticeship schemes.

“The majority of apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training,” said Skills Minister John Hayes. “They boost individuals’ life chances and build the skills that drive growth.

“But we must be relentless in our drive to ensure all apprenticeships are as good as the best and to identify and root out any instances of poor quality provision,” he added.

As part of the changes, a new grant to encourage more small businesses to take on apprentices has also been launched by the National Apprenticeship Service. Up to 40,000 grants to the value of £1,500 are now available to firms with fewer than 250 employees that recruit their first apprentice aged 16 to 24. Additional priority is being given to firms with fewer than 50 staff. Around 20,000 small firms are expected to take advantage of the funding, which is being managed by the Skills Funding Agency.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that most small firms would welcome a minimum time frame for taking on apprentices. “This way, small businesses can invest in training for young people and know that they will get a return from it, rather than the apprentice leaving after a short space of time,” said FSB spokeswoman Sara Lee. “If a business owner knows he will be employing that person for a year, there’s much more of an incentive to train them up.”

Lee added that apprenticeships could be particularly valuable to small firms relying on only a few staff, but financial barriers and red tape often put them off.

The new minimum time changes will come into effect from August 2012, following consultation with apprenticeship providers and employers.