British Chambers of Commerce

Apprenticeships: Not just for School Leavers

"People assume you employ someone to be an apprentice".
35 year old Anissa Lee is a Marketing Assistant at Weymouth College. In 2017, she decided to take a Level 2 Customer Service Apprenticeship to broaden her portfolio of skills.

What immigration system would businesses like?

UK passport control at Heathrow Airport

The UK's five largest business organisations and about 30 trade associations, from hoteliers to universities, have written an open letter to the home secretary, asking for flexibility for skilled workers to enter the UK after Brexit.

They have listed four key criteria they would like to see in a new immigration system:

  • A lower minimum salary threshold of £20,100, and a formula whereby an overseas worker would need to be earning more than 25% of people doing the same job, to protect wages
  • A points-based system for skilled workers without sponsorship, benefiting small businesses
  • A temporary visa lasting one to two years to encourage migrant workers to integrate into local communities
  • A simpler reformed sponsorship system

Labour market 'starting to sag'

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is another trade body expressing concern over the latest jobs figures.

"Although the UK’s unemployment rate remains very low by historic standards, falling employment is further evidence that the labour market is starting to sag under the weight of a lethargic economy, rising cost pressures and unrelenting uncertainty," says Suren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC.

“The continued fall in the number of vacancies suggests that employment growth could slow further over the near term. Businesses report that they are facing persistent recruitment difficulties, which are increasingly putting some off from attempting to hire new staff.

“Although pay continues to rise faster than prices, the slowdown in regular earnings growth is disappointing.

"While wage growth in real terms is likely to remain in positive territory over the near term a sluggish economy, weak productivity and high upfront costs for businesses will increasingly weigh on pay settlements."

'Make it a business election, not just a Brexit election'

BBC Radio 5 Live

SWmall business
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Adam Marshall of the Business Chambers of Commerce hopes that the general election on 12 December will resolve Brexit uncertainties once and for all.

"Businesses are really fed up with deadlock and polarisation," he tells BBC Radio Five Live's Wake up to Money.

"They will trudge wearily to the polls, they want action and they have seen indecision."

Mr Marshall said businesses had been hit by a number of stealth taxes in recent years.

He said every political party "should be asking - what will make life easier for our small and medium sized businesses?"

"There are many things that businesses want," he adds. "But a lot of it has been pushed out of the way because of the endless debate about Brexit. We will be pushing hard to make sure it is not just a Brexit election."

BCC calls for economic boost

Our message to government is simple: put the economy at the forefront of your agenda. Amidst the ongoing political turbulence, businesses can’t afford for government to lose sight of its responsibility to create conditions that support growth and boost investment - much of which doesn’t require new primary legislation. That means action to lower the upfront costs hitting firms, boosting investment in infrastructure and skills, and providing considerable investment incentives to companies.

Adam MarshallDirector general of the British Chambers of Commerce

Apprenticeships drop to 13% in London

Apprentice using a drill
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The number of businesses in London employing an apprentice has fallen over the past year, a study suggests.

Only 13% of businesses in the capital said they currently employ apprentices, down from 17% in 2018, according a report from the London Chamber of Commerce and London Councils.

In 2017 the government introduced an apprenticeship levy on large employers which they can then claim back to fund training.

The London Chamber of Commerce and London Councils said their research showed the need for a fully devolved apprenticeship service for the capital.

The groups said their survey of 1,000 businesses showed that confusion persists within the business community over requirements to pay the levy, as well as the use of apprenticeship funds.

Peter Bishop, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce, said: "Over half of businesses who currently try to recruit in London encounter difficulties finding candidates with the right skills.

"In this climate apprenticeships should play more of a vital role than ever, yet our research shows that only 13% of London businesses currently employ apprentices.

Clare Coghill, of London Councils, said: "The survey continues to show that the apprenticeship levy is not working for London and that businesses overwhelmingly back boroughs having more freedom, which would enable local government and business to work together via a London Apprenticeship Service."

BCC: 'Quite concerning period for UK economy'

BBC Radio 5 Live

Wake Up To Money

worker at a desk
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The British Chamber of Commerce has downgraded its growth forecast to 1.2% (from 1.3%) this year and to 0.8% next year (from 1%) and said that no-deal Brexit would require a revision to forecasts

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, told Radio 5 Live that global outlook was weakening at the same time as Brexit.

"What our forecast shows is we are in a quite concerning period for the UK economy because the nature of the Brexit uncertainty, the prolonged nature of it, together with a weakening global economic backdrop, is weakening key drivers of economic growth," he said.