Government to fully fund apprenticeships in small businesses

The government will fully fund apprenticeships in small businesses from 1st April, the prime minister is expected to announce today (March 18, 2024).


Speaking at the Business Connect conference in Warwickshire, prime minister Rishi Sunak will outline how the government will cover the full cost of training for anyone up to the age of 21.

This will remove the need for small employers to meet some of the cost of training and save time and costs for providers like further education colleges who currently need to source funding separately from the government and businesses.  

The move is expected to create an additional 20,000 apprenticeships and is underpinned by an additional £60m of new government funding for next year.  


From the start of April, the government will also increase the amount of funding that employers who are paying the apprenticeship levy can pass on to other businesses. Apprenticeships can currently be funded by a levy-paying employer transferring up to 25 per cent of their unused levy to a different employer. 

Under the new measures, large employers who pay the apprenticeship levy will be able to transfer up to 50 per cent of their funds to support other businesses, including smaller firms, to take on apprentices. 

In a statement, education secretary, Gillian Keegan said: “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for businesses to develop the skills they need, and these new measures will help more businesses and young people benefit from them. Our plan to deliver a high-growth, high-skilled economy is working, with more opportunities available to young people than ever before.”

Commenting on the announcement, Beatrice Barleon, head of policy & public affairs at EngineeringUK, said:

“We welcome the government’s commitment to offer more support for apprenticeships, particularly recognising the need to support small to medium sized enterprises [SMEs] with taking on more apprentices.

“We are particularly pleased to see the focus for the support is on young people aged 21 or under. Refocusing some of the apprenticeship budget money for young people is something we have called for in our recent ‘Fit for the future’ report with Lord Willetts and Lord Knight.

“While these measures are certainly a step in the right direction, more still needs to be done to ensure our apprenticeships system is a success. Government needs to consider the recommendations put to them as to how to better support SMEs with the processes surrounding apprenticeships and how to better help young people to be able to access the opportunities available and be ready for work.

“It’s clear there is still an apparent, and growing, mismatch between levy intake and the apprenticeship budget. In light of apprenticeship numbers needing to grow to meet demand in the engineering and technology sector, we would like to see greater transparency as to how this additional money is currently being spent.”