The government has been urged by a leading manufacturer to give up in its much-criticised apprenticeship scheme and instead implement a system whereby small businesses can take out low interest loans to go towards vocational training.
According to the chief executive of British Glass, which represents the interests of the UK's glass manufacturers, changes made to apprenticeship schemes by this government have put off many small businesses from getting involved.
Writing in the Guardian, Dave Dalton acknowledged that some efforts had been made to rectify the situation in the current Budget, but said that more fundamental changes are required.
In order to encourage more small businesses to take on trainees, he recommends throwing out the current system and instead introducing loans similar to those that students receive to cover their tuition fees.
"These loans would have a low interest rate and would offer small businesses a holiday period from repayment - about one to three years - enabling them to take on apprentices as soon as possible," he suggested. "After this period, they'd then repay the loan back in installments."
The manufacturing expert said that his proposed system would see the loans based on actual training costs, meaning that all companies would be on an even footing, regardless of their size or industry.
"We need to bring about a change in culture in how businesses view taking on an apprentice," he said, warning that too many employers currently rely on government funding to cover training and refuse to take on the responsibility for training apprentices if these grants are not forthcoming.
He urged businesses to instead appreciate the benefits that they receive in the long term from work-based training schemes and the value that apprentices can bring to their organisations in their own right. "Giving employers loans would be a great way of ensuring that they take ownership of training their workforce," Mr Dalton concluded.