On Friday an MP raised a question with the Minister responsible for setting out the apprenticeship scheme. His question was about how many apprenticeships had taken place within their department. The current Minister has been in place for a year since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, and she is local to those of us who live in Sussex, representing Chichester constituency. Prior to Gillian Keegan being appointed, her predecessor for two years was the Guildford MP Anne Milton and she took over from Robert Halfon who is the MP who asked the question on Friday. Robert Halfon who did the job for a year followed on from Nick Boles who did it for 2 years. Anyway although the question has no direct relevance in one sense for small businesses there is an interesting aspect once we read the answer.
RH: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to reach the public sector apprenticeship target.
GK: The department has successfully met its public sector target for the number of apprenticeship starts in each of the previous three years. The table below shows the target and actual number of starts, and the resulting percentage of the workforce that this represents.
|Year||Target No.||Actual No.||% of workforce|
Data taken from Department for Education Departmental Summary 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20.
The reason why this has some relevance for small businesses is that on a number of occasions in the last few weeks, Gillian Keegan has mentioned the phrase “particularly smaller businesses” when she was asked question about apprenticeships and indeed she has promised to release some more assistance for such businesses in the near future. Indeed I even wrote this blog about it. However the challenge is that small businesses are specified as being based on employing 10-49 people and inevitably the vast majority of them are much closer to 10 than to 49. However if we take the Government department experience over the last 3 years, they are taking on apprentices which represent around 2.7% of their workforce which is currently something even then can organise. If the largest of the small businesses took on 1 person this would be comparable at fractionally over 2% of their workforce to the Government department. However any company with less than 30 employees would need to work much harder to takes on a single apprentice which would be well beyond the proportion of apprenticeships that the Education Department has set out to achieve.
Perhaps we could persuade Ministers like Gillian Keegan and MPs like Robert Halfon to either demand that more apprentices can be employed by the DfE to demonstrate that 2.7% is easier than they anticipated or as a more realistic approach for them to offer significantly higher levels of funding to small companies that have less than 30 workers for each apprentice that they take on!