The government is expanding the number of businesses eligible for grants worth £1,500 by allowing employers with less than 1,000 staff to apply.
Previously, only businesses recruiting 16 to 24 year olds with less than 250 employees were eligible for the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE). Up to 40,000 grants are being provided.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) stressed that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) remain “a key priority for the scheme” and that “sufficient funding is available to ensure that all eligible SMEs will be able to claim the grant”.
Following feedback from employers, the government is making the scheme simpler to use. The grant will be made in a single payment instead of two instalments and employers will be allowed to claim grants to support up to ten new apprentices.
The Federation of Small Businesses said it did not see any issues with opening up the scheme to more employers, but wanted the government to make sure that it would not affect the ability of small firms to access the scheme.
John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We’re pleased that the time limit on AGE has been reduced from three years and will now be open to businesses that haven’t taken on an apprentice in the previous 12 months. This will open it up to more firms that have had a recent apprentice, enabling them to take on another.
“Recent FSB research showed that eight in 10 small firms are concerned about the readiness of school leavers entering the world of work. We are pleased that the Holt report acknowledged these concerns and recognised the need for better communication of the apprenticeship programme to SMEs.”
The £1,500 grant is in addition to the training costs of the apprenticeship framework, which are met in full for young people aged 16 to 18 and 50 per cent for those aged 19 to 24.