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SME boss views government’s approach to apprenticeships as ‘lacklustre’

The CEO of a Bedfordshire-based SME believes the government’s campaign to recruit apprentices lacks both commitment and investment.

Andrew Robinson, CEO of Automated Technology Group (ATG) Ltd, said, "There are bright young people out there and employers in booming sectors of industry crying out for them. It’s the government’s job to match them up but they are failing in this key task. Their efforts are lacklustre, to say the least."

Mr Robinson, 44, who began his own career as an apprentice, continued, "With the current manufacturing boom in the UK, we have simply been unable to recruit sufficient staff of the right calibre through the traditional channels. As a result, we have taken the decision to launch our own apprenticeship scheme in order to fast-track school leavers and graduates."

"In 2011 SMEs accounted for more than half of employment and almost half of turnover in the UK private sector," explained Andrew Robinson. "Although the government talks up the importance of SMEs, this is simply not matched by the scale of support provided by the various government bodies responsible for promoting apprenticeships, which seem to focus solely on the needs and successes of Britain’s largest companies. SMEs don’t have the same resources as the big boys, so we rely on the support structure provided by the government in this area. Right now," he continued, "SMEs are the very companies that have the ability to kick-start the UK economy when it needs it most. This is why the government’s efforts, which appear to lack both commitment and investment, are so disappointing. The coalition should be aiming the spotlight firmly on SMEs and pushing its quangos to support us."

"As a medium-sized enterprise," continued Mr Robinson, "we’ve bitten the bullet and invested in our own scheme – the Autotech Academy – and we’re aiming to take on some 20 apprentices before the end of this year. We’re keen to hear from motivated young people with an interest in engineering, especially in the Bedford and Birmingham areas," he added.

ATG – based in Silsoe, Bedfordshire – is the UK’s largest independent automation control company, with a turnover of around £30m. The engineering group is buoyant through a string of orders from the likes of Jaguar Land Rover, BAA, Bentley, Coca-Cola, Ford, Tata Steel, the US Air Force and the MOD.

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