British Chambers of Commerce hopes Budget 2014 will boost apprenticeships

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called for the government to provide funding to help businesses take on new apprentices, as part of its Budget proposals.

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has called for the government to provide funding to help businesses take on new apprentices, as part of its Budget proposals.

Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget announcement today is expected to more accurately reflect the demands of the IT industry after the government called for businesses to submit their policy ideas back in January.

In its submission, the BCC proposed a new £100 million Future Workforce Grant scheme, which gives businesses £1,000 for hiring long-term unemployed young people or a new apprentice. It said this would help to create 100,000 new jobs this year, and help bridge the gap before the national insurance exemption for under 21s is introduced in 2015.

This will help to bridge the gap before the national insurance exemption for under 21s is introduced in 2015, it said.

In addition, it called for a two-year extension to the Apprenticeships Grant for Employers (AGE) scheme, to create an additional 80,000 apprenticeships, and increased tax relief through the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) from 30 percent to 50 percent for investors of businesses run by under-24s, to encourage young entrepreneurs.

BCC director general John Longworth said: “Businesses across Britain tell me they want to hire young people. Yet many cannot afford to take the risk, especially at a time when other, more qualified applicants are coming forward for the job vacancies on offer.

“If the chancellor wants to avoid a lost generation among today’s 16-to-24 year-olds, he must use the spring Budget to help businesses take on and train up young people, whether they are going straight into jobs or into apprenticeships. He should also extend tax incentives for individuals with deep pockets who invest in businesses started up by school and college leavers and graduates.”

Apprenticeships have been high on the government’s agenda over the last few years, and Matthew Hancock, minister of state for Skills & Enteprise recently said that he wants apprenticeships to become the “norm”, and that IT employers have a role to play by desigining high quality and relevant programmes.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced this new approach to apprenticeships in October.

Meanwhile, IT company Progress believes that the Budget can play a role in creating more tech-savvy apprentices of the future.

Gary Calcott, technical product manager at Progress, said: "If the chancellor is serious about making 2014 ‘The Year of Code’, his Budget speech needs to ensure that children of all ages are given ‘hands on’ access to programming technology that focuses primarily on 'ease of use'. While it’s great to see computer coding being added to the curriculum from this September, it’s important that students aren’t scared off by having to sift through long, complex lines of code in the early stages of their education.

"The chancellor must ensure that resources are dedicated to making tools available for children to experiment and make the fundamentals of their computing education a fun, informal and enjoyable experience. For example, giving students the ability to build an application by using a simple ‘drag and drop’ interface is a great way of introducing them to the world of programming, without bogging them down in the complexity of having to learn a new programming language.

“It could even provide the foundation for Britain to produce a wealth of world-class developers that can help to boost this country’s position as a European innovation hub for years to come.”

As well as more support for entrepreneurs, software company Thomsons Online Benefits, is calling for more financial aid for medium-sized firms.  

“Mid-sized businesses are integral to Britain’s economy,” said Michael Whitfield, CEO of Thomsons Online Benefits. “Unfortunately, however, while we’ve seen some initiatives to help accelerate these businesses, the required finance and support that will truly fuel their expansion, domestic and international, are still too often too difficult to get.

“Policies like those addressing the corporation tax rate have helped. But, going forward, I would hope to see more action specifically designed to support mid-market companies gain access to the money they need.”

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