The last day for applications for the incentive payments, which allocate up to £4,000 per apprentice hire is 31 January, meaning employers who opt to take on an apprentice after this date may not be eligible.

The government funding package was announced as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget in March last year, aimed at tackling the national skills shortage by allowing firms to invest in their workforce.

The HomeServe Foundation, which campaigns to increase the number of high quality apprenticeships in the UK and champions programmes to help tackle youth unemployment, has called for an extension to the deadline – in a bid to help more businesses reap the benefits of these placements.

Helen Booth, Director of the HomeServe Foundation, said: “The grants have given businesses across the UK a terrific boost by allowing many to take on more work and expand – but it’s still yet to be adopted by many.

“It’s not too late. Employers thinking about taking on apprentices need to act fast if they want to benefit from these grants. But we know that more want to take advantage and simply haven’t had the time so far.

“We are now urging the government to grant an extension to these incredibly valuable incentives – or else so many businesses and young people will end up missing out. It would be invaluable to tackling the country’s skills crisis.”

According to the government, more than 60,000 claims for the incentives were made for 16 to 24 year olds between its launch in April and September, with more than 19,000 for the over-25 age group. The deadline was then extended to January – and it’s estimated thousands more claims have since been made, but many more could miss out if it isn’t extended again.

On 11 January, applications opened for the latest incentive payments for those who hired apprentices over the winter.

Time is now running out to apply for them. Employers in England have until 31 January to arrange and start a scheme and access £3,000 funding for an apprentice of any age, or £4,000 for taking on a young apprentice aged between 16 and 18. 

The payments are different to apprenticeship levy funds, so businesses can spend it on anything to support costs – including uniforms, the apprentice’s travel or their salary.

The HomeServe Foundation, the charity arm of home repairs and improvements firm HomeServe PLC, recently conducted a survey of small UK trades businesses, where 80% of firms said the current apprenticeship incentives had helped their decision to take on an apprentice. 

It also found 84% of trades firms, including electricians, plasterers, and heating engineers, planned to take on an apprentice to help with increased workloads. 

The charity says the UK trades sector is grappling with a huge upturn in customer demand as consumers invest in their homes with kitchen upgrades, decorating projects and home extensions.  

With improved access to levy funding brought about by the government’s Levy Transfer Service introduced last year, meaning large businesses can easily pledge funds to smaller businesses, there’s never been a better time to take on an apprentice. More information on the service can be found here.

The Department for Work and Pensions Kickstart scheme, which gives young people on Universal Credit paid-for work placements, also allows employers that find a good candidate using that route, to employ them as apprentices and benefit from the incentives.  

More details and applications can be found here: