Lets build to last – by training our young workers

Then there is the crunch issue cash-flow. This, of course, is a fundamental concern to any business but one which increases inversely with size. Taking on an apprentice or graduate is a huge investment, sometimes costing up to 20,000 a year. In a smaller business this can seem a daunting up-front number.

And while the survey gives a voice to business which fall into the SME bracket (employing between 1 to 250 employees), we all know it is an opinion held by many businesses of all sizes. What are the returns for us as business leaders of making these investments

For any enterprise, this is a strategic, long-term decision. Whilst an experienced hire might mean instant returns, training employees from their first day offers unique opportunities. Taking on an apprentice, for example, offers a business the chance to truly shape the work practices and principles of the employee. It can mean helping them to specialize in niche industries, to learn unique skills and to become invaluable members of your team with all the necessary insights as to who you are and what your company – and above all, your customer – values. This is certainly what I have seen in our apprenticeships at QinetiQ and I know from our sharing of best practice that it is true of all other 44 companies in The 5% Club, whether SME or FTSE 100.

So I am determined that the training of young people should not be viewed as a cash drain. Investing in graduates and apprentices can show a rapid payback in energy, ideas and output, over time delivering huge dividends for the future prosperity not only of the individual business but the UK as a whole.

It is not just about what the government can do for businesses but what businesses can do for themselves and the country at the same time.

This isnt just SMEs, but all businesses. To truly alleviate the burden of youth unemployment, Britain needs to harness the potential of all businesses of all sizes to give this generation of young people the help they need to build their careers.

As we celebrate its first year of growth for The 5% Club, it is time to think about what we want to be celebrating next year, and the year after that. I know that I want to be raising a glass to the continuing swelling of our numbers of apprentices and graduates in training, and the sustained prosperity of our nations businesses.

Investing in the next generation may be a long-term strategic goal, but it is one that is vital to this countrys social and economic future.

By Leo Quinn is the CEO of QinetiQ.

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