With a month left until nominations close, the organisers of the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards have emphasised the importance of apprenticeships to SMEs, with the introduction of a new category.
Saturday 7 December saw this year’s ‘Small Business Saturday’ take place, celebrating and promoting small businesses across the UK – following this nationwide event, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) is urging the county’s small business community who employ apprentices to enter next year’s Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards, ahead of its January nomination deadline.
Micro businesses can enter the Apprenticeship Employer Award (less than 10 employees) category, with the newly-introduced accolade further celebrating the contribution SMEs make to skills provision in the county, alongside the existing award for businesses with less than 50 employees.
Oxfordshire has a successful record of retaining its small businesses, with 49.3% of the 2,790 new businesses created in the county during 2011 still in operation in 2016 (ONS report – November 2017), around five per cent higher than the national average during the same period.
Just last month, the ScaleUp Institute – a national organisation who create partnerships to support the UK to become the ‘best place in the world to scale-up a business’ – highlighted in their annual report how high-growth businesses in Oxfordshire are recognising the important role training schemes, in particular – apprenticeships, currently play in supporting businesses to grow.
While larger employers in the county have been recognised for offering apprenticeships at the awards previously, organisers OxLEP are keen to showcase and celebrate small businesses, as for them, investing in apprenticeship schemes can be a much larger commitment and use of resource.
The awards provide a significant platform to demonstrate the benefits of apprenticeships to small businesses – including how apprentices can bring new ideas to a business.
Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of OxLEP – said: “Small businesses are the backbone of any economy and that’s particularly the case in Oxfordshire.
“Across the county, we saw around 50,000 new jobs created between 2012 and 2017, with small businesses responsible for a considerable number of these – nationally, over 99 per cent of the UK’s 5.7million businesses are classified as ‘small’ employing a total of 16.1 million people.
“Discovering young talent can help organisations to stay ahead of competitors and, in-turn, support young people in making better-informed decisions as they move towards the world of work.
“Oxfordshire businesses are clearly committed to apprenticeships, seeing them as a positive method to develop highly-trained workforces of the future - through the 2020 awards, we hope to engage even more businesses, particularly SMEs.”
The Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards 2020 will be taking place on Thursday 2 April at the Williams F1 Conference Centre. The deadline for entries is midnight on Monday 13 January.