Businesses urged to pool resources in bid to increase apprentice numbers

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Small businesses could pool resources to share the burden of training young staff, MSPs have heard.

The idea was discussed at Holyrood’s Finance Committee which is investigating how to improve the employment chances of people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Owners of some small firms said they struggle to justify investing in apprentices because of red tape and high costs.

Mary Goodman, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I’ve spoken with a number of members on this issue. They’re quite often a bit nervous, particularly in the current economic climate, to commit to take somebody on.

“They don’t want to take someone on only to have to let them go; they do want to be involved in employability and employment. So there’s a confidence issue there in terms of the economic situation but also in terms of their capacity to cover things in terms of training.

“One of the things we’ve suggested to add an element of flexibility is to bring in companies of a similar niche industry together that could share the training of the apprentice. That would at least give somebody some training.”

Only about 8% of the FSB’s membership had taken on an apprentice in 2010, she added.

Tricia Hunter, managing director of recruitment firm Minerva People, said: “Looking at pooling together, I think that’s something very worthwhile looking at, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industry, especially when it’s seasonal.”

However, she warned that working out who would employ an individual could be complicated.

Meanwhile, a firm which sparked controversy by suggesting many young people are unemployable has been criticised for not turning up to the committee session.

David Scott, chief executive of GTG Training which is owned by car dealer Arnold Clark, was expected to expand on claims made to MSPs that more than four-fifths of school leavers seeking an apprenticeship were unsuitable.

In a report to the committee, the firm claimed that some young people have a poor attitude, wholly unrealistic expectations and are unprepared for long working hours.

MSPs said they were disappointed that Mr Scott sent his apologies, citing an unforeseen business requirement.

Michael McMahon, a Labour MSP on the committee, alluded to the criticisms of young people by GTG Training when he said: “I hope he will have a good reason and it’s not down to his poor attitude, that he’s got no concept of citizenship, poor communications skills or a poor understanding of the standards that are expected. I’m sure there is a good reason why he’s not here.”

Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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