Fears over red tape remain a major barrier to firms taking on apprentices, according to research carried out by the KM Group.
As part of Kent Business’ Kick Start Kent campaign, scores of company bosses and department heads were asked about the challenges of employing trainees.
The survey on KentBusiness.co.uk found more than a quarter have concerns about filling out forms to obtain funding, while salary commitments also put them off the process.
Apprentice Ashley Skey undergoing training with IPS International, the partner of Kent Business' Kick Start Kent campaign
The same number, nearly 26%, felt a lack of time made hiring an apprentice impossible.
Despite this, some 71% of businesses surveyed said they had considered taking on an apprentice but less than half, 49%, had actually made inquiries about taking one on.
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Of those, just over a quarter said they had approached a training provider about hiring an apprentice. Less than 14% approached Kent County Council, one of the major providers in the area.
Generally businesses feel they have enough information available about apprenticeships, with 56% saying they felt they could make an informed decision.
Yet more than a quarter were not aware apprentices need to be paid the minimum wage.
More than a quarter were also unaware that funding is available to help towards the cost of training.
When asked about the positive aspects of hiring an apprentice, responses ranged from it being “altruistic and cost effective” to being “able to train up someone in specific skills that exactly match the requirements of the company”.
Yet businesses also expressed fears they might not have enough work for an apprentice and many questioned the commitment of applicants.
One respondent simply answered they were “not sure young people have the right attitude to training”.
East Kent College principal Graham Razey
East Kent College provides 37 apprenticeship courses at its Broadstairs campus.
Principal Graham Razey said: “The issue with red tape is really true. We need to simplify the process.
“Businesses want a one-stop shop for advice but they have so many providers. It is complicated.
“There needs to be an advice line. I might be doing myself out of some business here but looking at it from a business point of view, they need one place to go to get advice.
“We need an independent broker, who can then funnel out apprenticeships to different providers.”