Belfast Telegraph

Cash incentive urged from Stormont to help SMEs recruit apprentices

By John Mulgrew

There have been calls for Stormont to bring in funding plans for apprenticeship schemes across Northern Ireland firms.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on the Executive to implement its own proposals for apprenticeships, which would see them receive financial backing from the Government. It comes as plans for businesses in England were unveiled, which would mean small companies receiving cash to help pay to train workers.

Ministers have proposed that smaller firms in England with fewer than 50 employees which take on a 16- to 18-year-old apprentice will not be required to make any financial contribution towards the cost of training.

The FSB had previously warned that forcing the smallest firms to contribute could lead to many firms giving up on hiring apprentices altogether.

It said just 23% of SMEs in Northern Ireland have engaged in apprenticeship schemes.

Wilfred Mitchell, FSB policy chair for Northern Ireland, said: "In Northern Ireland we are still awaiting clarity around how the apprenticeship levy, which will be raised on a UK-wide basis, will be returned to firms who want to take on an apprentice.

"FSB therefore calls on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement the Securing our 'Success: NI Apprenticeship Strategy' in full, with appropriate resource allocations to ensure the financial incentives for employers are adequately funded."

The FSB says it also supports plans to introduce an online calculator, to help businesses work out how much training an apprentice is likely to cost, and provide advice on how firms can support an apprentice.

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