Prime Minister Unveils Fully Funded Apprenticeships for SMEs

Monday, March 18, 2024

Empowering Enterprises: Prime Minister's Vision for Economic Renewal

In a highly anticipated economic address at the Business Connect conference in Warwickshire today, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is poised to unveil a comprehensive set of reforms aimed at bolstering businesses across the UK. This marks his first economic speech since the Spring Budget and is expected to introduce significant changes to apprenticeship funding, red tape reduction for SMEs, and initiatives to stimulate private investment in female-led startups.


Fully Funded Apprenticeships for Small Businesses: The government's commitment to fully funding apprenticeships in small businesses, starting April 1st, represents a significant move to reduce financial burdens on employers and create more opportunities for young people entering the workforce.


• Deregulatory Measures for SMEs: The announcement of deregulatory measures aimed at simplifying reporting requirements for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is expected to alleviate administrative burdens, save significant time and resources, and foster a more conducive environment for business growth.


• Invest in Women Taskforce: The establishment of an industry-led Invest in Women Taskforce underscores the government's dedication to supporting female entrepreneurs. This initiative aims to raise private capital for female-founded businesses, address barriers to growth, and position the UK as a global leader in supporting female entrepreneurship.


• Government’s Commitment to Small Businesses: The Prime Minister's address reaffirms the government's unwavering commitment to supporting small businesses as the backbone of the economy. Through various initiatives, including tax cuts, business rates relief, and increased access to finance, the government seeks to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and drive economic growth.


Prime Minister Unveils Economic Reforms to Boost Businesses

Support for Apprenticeships and Small Businesses

One of the headline announcements is the government's commitment to fully fund apprenticeships in small businesses starting April 1st. This move entails covering the entire cost of training for individuals up to the age of 21, a measure designed to alleviate financial burdens on businesses while creating more opportunities for young people entering the workforce. By fully funding apprenticeships, small employers will no longer bear the cost of training, streamlining the process and enhancing accessibility.


Furthermore, the government is injecting an additional £60 million into apprenticeship funding for the upcoming year, ensuring sufficient resources to meet business demand. Large employers, who contribute to the apprenticeship levy, will also benefit from increased flexibility, with the ability to transfer up to 50% of their funds to support other businesses. This initiative aims to facilitate SMEs in hiring apprentices by reducing costs and broadening access to skilled workers across various sectors.


Deregulatory Measures for SMEs

In a bid to ease the regulatory burden on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the Prime Minister is set to announce measures aimed at simplifying both non-financial and financial reporting requirements. Notably, there will be a 50% uplift to the thresholds determining a company's size, potentially benefiting up to 132,000 businesses. By raising these thresholds, the government aims to align regulatory standards with the needs of British businesses, freeing them from cumbersome reporting obligations.


Additionally, the government plans to eliminate duplicative and bureaucratic EU reporting requirements, transitioning towards digitalised annual reports to streamline processes and enhance efficiency. These changes are estimated to deliver significant savings for SMEs, totalling around £150 million annually, while saving small businesses at least 1 million hours per year.


Invest in Women Taskforce

Acknowledging the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in accessing finance and investment, the Prime Minister will announce the formation of an industry-led Invest in Women Taskforce. Co-chaired by entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow and Barclay’s Hannah Bernard, the task-force aims to raise private capital for female-founded businesses and address barriers hindering their growth. With a focus on unlocking private investment and providing tailored support, this initiative seeks to position the UK as a global leader in supporting female entrepreneurs.


Government's Commitment to Small Businesses

The Prime Minister's address underscores the government's steadfast commitment to supporting small businesses as the backbone of the economy. Against a backdrop of economic progress, including a reduction in inflation and tax cuts, the government is doubling down on its efforts to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Initiatives such as increasing the VAT registration threshold and extending business rates relief aim to alleviate financial pressures on SMEs, while measures to simplify reporting requirements seek to enhance operational efficiency.


Strengthening Support and Collaboration

The announcements made at the Business Connect conference reflect a multi-faceted approach to supporting businesses, encompassing apprenticeship funding, deregulation, and initiatives to foster female entrepreneurship. By engaging with stakeholders and addressing key challenges facing SMEs, the government aims to drive sustained economic growth and prosperity across the UK.


Ongoing Support for SMEs

Beyond apprenticeships, the government continues to implement a range of measures to support SMEs, including tax cuts, business rates relief, and access to finance. These initiatives reflect a concerted effort to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and economic growth.



The Prime Minister's unveiling of these economic reforms signals a concerted effort to empower businesses, foster innovation, and create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship. As the UK charts a course towards recovery and growth, these measures are poised to make a tangible difference in supporting businesses of all sizes and driving economic prosperity.