Companies urged to invest in apprentices

Peter Cowgill

Peter Cowgill

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Companies are being urged to tackle the skills shortage facing the nation by investing in apprentices.

Michael Barker, partner at Preston-based accountancy practice and business advisor WNJ, believes this commitment to training will become even more important for businesses as the effects of the increase in the Minimum Wage are felt.

He said: “Several major businesses including Next and Whitbread, the owner of Costa and Premier Inns, have expressed their concern over the impact of the rise in the Minimum Wage.

“Business leaders including JD Sports executive chairman Peter Cowgill have said the proposed increases will lead to fewer jobs being created.

“In recent months when discussing the major issues they face, clients have told me one of their biggest concerns is that there are specific skill shortages.

“Clients in the construction industry have experienced great difficulty in recruiting staff with the skills they need. Indeed the Federation of Master Builders reported last month that two out of three small builders have to turn down work because of this exact problem.

“The haulage industry has also reported skill shortages which are ultimately driving up wages more than any minimum wage legislation. Specific legislation relating to training qualification has seen many drivers leave the industry.

“It is interesting to compare with comments made in the 1990s when government advisers warned it was ‘utter nonsense’ to argue that jobs might not be lost should a Minimum Wage be introduced.

However, evidence suggests that its introduction did not increase unemployment – in fact aggregate employment levels increased to over 30 million.

There is a more positive perspective to be considered.

Young people are being given a clear message that State benefits are being reduced now and over the next few years.

The difference between the amounts from benefits and that of the minimum wages will increase, providing a stronger incentive to get a job. Given these extra incentives, younger people may now be keener to undertake training.”