Britain’s Got Talent, but no place to go

JTL, the leading 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.

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

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 up.”

Mr 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 says: “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.

“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 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.”

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