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Britain's got talent, but 93% have nowhere to show it

JTL, a training charity for the building services engineering sector, warns that British banks are blocking businesses from providing employment opportunities for young people, as they refuse to provide credit support. In a JTL poll of employers in the electrical, plumbing and heating sector, an overwhelming majority (93%) said that they would like to take on an apprentice if they had the resources to do so.

Britain's got talent, but 93% have nowhere to show it

However, 66% of those respondents said that they had no plans to take on an apprentice in 2012. The survey found that lack of support from banks was a major issue, with 60% of those polled saying that more banking support would enable them to win more work and take on apprentices.

JTL now urges the Government to use National Apprenticeship Week (taking place from 6-10 February) as an opportunity to pressure banks to make more credit available.

Denis Hird, Chief Executive of JTL says: “Firms in our sector only get paid when a contract is complete. So to win work, they need cash up-front to pay staff and buy materials. In these thorny economic times, many SMEs don’t have this cash to hand and so desperately need support from the banks, but this has all but dried-up. As a result, firms can’t even bid for new work, let alone take on a new staff member to train.”

Hird adds that the challenge of attracting young people to apprenticeships has been tackled effectively in recent years through campaigns such as National Apprenticeship Week. But at the same time, he believes there is much more to do. He comments that last year, JTL received 25,000 applications for only 2,500 electrical, heating and plumbing places, meaning 90% of applicants had to be turned away. "It’s misleading that young people are being pushed towards apprenticeships when employers simply can’t create enough places to go round. Our own study shows that 44% of firms have slashed their apprenticeship budget since National Apprenticeship Week began in 2008.

“As the sector’s training charity, we need to ensure that we have skilled people available to not only meet the industry needs of today, but also in the future. If we don’t create the conditions for employers to take on more apprentices, Britain's economy – it’s industry and infrastructure – is going to be in serious trouble in five years’ time as there simply won't be enough skilled people in the country to maintain our existing infrastructure, let alone deliver new projects that’ll get the economy moving again. Government must do something – and quickly – to make banks give more support to SMEs and stop the stranglehold on responsible businesses. Then we might actually see a reversal of fortunes and get the economy back on its feet again. At the same time, National Apprenticeship Week needs to tackle the issues holding back employers from taking on apprentices.”

According to the JTL survey of 500 responses:
• 44% of firms said they were scaling back their apprenticeship recruitment plans in 2012
• 69% of firms said they weren't looking to take on an apprentice this year
• 93% said they'd gladly take on an apprentice in an ideal world
• 60% said increased banking support would help them win work and take on more apprentices


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