Small employers are key to the success of the apprenticeship system, according the new chair of the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network (AAN). Jason Holt, chief executive of the Holts Group, a jewellery business which also includes the Holts Academy, was appointed to the role last week.
He had previously been the apprenticeship ambassador for small businesses – and has advised the government on apprenticeship policy. His predecessor at the AAN had been very successful in engaging employers who did not previously employ apprentices – and had left big shoes to fill.
“I am keen to do my best,” said Mr Holt, adding that as the owner of a small businesses employing apprentices, he felt very strongly about making apprenticeships more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The biggest challenge when taking on an apprentice was around capacity, with them not having large human resource departments to navigate the system, said Mr Holt. “It is really critical that we start thinking about how we can help particularly small employers to engage with apprenticeships and have a great experience.”
“It is a very small amount of time they have available, compared to large employers. So if the apprenticeship system is not clear, it affects small businesses disproportionately.”
Mr Holt stressed there a number of small employers who had already had a great experience from employing apprentices – and for whom the system was working very well. “We have to galvanise on that,” he said. So far, fewer than one in five small employers did engage with the system, he said.
Mr Holt’s appointment was announced by director of the National Apprenticeship Service Sue Husband at the launch of National Apprenticeship Week 2018 last week.
The AAN is a group of employers who want employers to commit to apprenticeship delivery. Ambassadors are chosen to join for the commitment they have demonstrated a high commitment to apprenticeships or traineeships in their own workforce, have a high profile in their sector or geographical area or represent a diverse range of employment sectors, according to the government.