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Tories to pay SMEs £2k per apprentice

The Conservatives say they will pay small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which take on and keep an apprentice a £2,000 bonus if they are returned to power.

The promise was made in Building Skills, Transforming Lives: A Training and Apprenticeship Revolution, a green paper published this week.

The proposal, along with others, is designed to encourage more SMEs to take on unskilled workers and create 100,000 new apprenticeship places a year, a Conservative spokesman said.

“What we have found is that nearly all the apprenticeships offered tend to be by large firms or multinationals,” he said. “We believe many SMEs are put off employing apprentices because of the hassle and the associated costs to their businesses. We plan to pay SMEs a £2,000 bonus for each completed apprenticeship. Their existing costs will still be met.

The Conservatives also plan to make it much easier for employers to offer apprenticeships by reducing bureaucracy, creating a single funding stream of direct payments to employers and fully funding all apprenticeships, not just those for young people.

Mark Brenner, the chief executive of Building Engineering Services Training, said: “That will sweeten the pill for some employers. But this is simply a token. We believe the commitment to apprentices from employers in time, costs and management resources starts from day one and could last four years.

“Nonetheless the value and financial return to employers of having an apprentice in their company is worth far more than the £2,000 bonus. Recent research puts the net benefit of taking on an apprentice to be worth more than £100,000, with cost recovery possible as early as the second year in well managed programmes.”