SummitSkills has welcomed news that the government is to make apprenticeship grants available to more employers.

The government is to relax the restrictions on its Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) scheme, enabling SMEs who have previously taken on apprentices to benefit from £1,500 financial support, as well as those who have never taken on an apprentice before.

The announcement, made by Skills Minister John Hayes in response to the Holt Review, will give small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs)  in the building services engineering sector "a welcome boost", according to SummitSkills, the sector sills council for the building services engineering sector.

The AGE scheme provides up to 40,000 grants to encourage and support employers taking on a young apprentice aged between 16 and 24.

The upper limit on the size of qualifying employers has also now been increased to include companies with up to 1,000 staff, up from the previous limit of 250 staff. Also, payments which used to take place in two instalments will now be made all at once, and employers can claim grants for up to 10 new apprentices.

Keith Marshall OBE, chief executive of SummitSkills, the sector skills council for the building services engineering sector, said: “These changes to the AGE scheme will contribute to the creation of more apprenticeships and we welcome the government’s quick action in response to the findings of the Holt Review.

“Our sector needs to invest in creating a pipeline of talented people to protect its future, but this is a difficult message for many employers to hear at the moment when they are under such financial pressure. Easier access to this grant may well be the catalyst to tip an employer’s decision toward taking on an apprentice as an investment for the future.”

John Hayes’ announcement was made yesterday following the publication of the Holt Review - an examination by jeweller and social entrepreneur Jason Holt of ways to make apprenticeships simpler and more accessible for small and medium size businesses.

Other government actions in response to the Holt Review include: