Businesses reveal biggest barriers to employing young people SME apprentices

Are you experienced? Businesses reveal biggest barrier to youth employment

  • Main barriers for SMEs bringing in apprentices cited as inexperience, retention, the cost of training
  • One in six SMEs admit to avoiding hiring younger employees where possible
  • While youth employment falls across the UK, skilled trades buck the trend by continuing to recruit young people

London, 23 March 2017: New research1 by Direct Line for Business has revealed a “chicken and egg” dilemma faced by thousands of apprentices across the UK. Two in five (40 per cent) of the SMEs surveyed cited that a lack of experience was a major barrier for young applicants in the hiring process. This is equivalent to 525,000 businesses out of the 1.3 million UK SMEs with employees in the UK2.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of SMEs said that young people often leave after a short period of time of being with the company, while a fifth (21 per cent) believe that the cost of training young employees can be prohibitive.

The research also reveals that one in six SMEs (16 per cent) in the UK generally try to avoid bringing in employees under the age of 21 as a direct result of the issues the businesses had faced in the past when hiring younger employees. Unreliability was cited as a barrier by one in five (20 per cent) SMEs, with 5 per cent saying safety risks in their line of work was another reason for not bringing in young employees.

These findings come as Direct Line‘s analysis of ONS data3 reveals that there were 88,000 fewer 18-21 year olds in employment than there had been five years previously. This represents a fall of 11 per cent, from 787,000 in 2012 to 699,000 in 2016. However, the number of young people employed in skilled trade professions has remained constant, suggesting a continued willingness amongst SMEs in this sector to provide young people with job opportunities.

Gary Holmes, Product Manager, at Direct Line for Business, said: “SMEs represent the vast majority of UK businesses and are therefore the biggest opportunity for young people starting their careers, helping them to gain valuable experience. While the number of people aged between 18 and 21 in employment in the UK may be falling, it‘s still refreshing to know that the trade industry is bucking the trend by continuing to give young people and apprentices an opportunity to forge a career.

“While there are some barriers that businesses feel are too great to overcome, we‘re trying to ensure that no business should be prohibited from hiring young workers due to insurance issues. For example, we recently launched Telematics to help drivers under the age of 21 get the insurance they need”.

For further details on Direct Line for Business‘ young drivers insurance please visit

Notes to Editors

1 Direct Line for Businesses‘ research conducted in August 2016 by Atomik Research amongst a sample of 500 UK SME decision makers

2 Business Population Estimates For the UK and Regions 2016, published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 13 October 2016

3 Analysis of the Office for National Statistics‘ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), 2012 - 2016. Results broken down by occupation (2 digit SOC) and age band

For further information please contact:

Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Antonia Green
Tel: 020 7282 2967

Direct Line for Business
Jade Trimbee
PR Manager
Tel: 01372 839 452
Mobile: 07825 315 931

Direct Line for Business

Launched in 2007 Direct Line for Business provides a range of insurance products for the small business sector direct by phone or on-line.

Direct Line for Business insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line for Business and U K Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line for Business products or get a quote by calling 0345 301 4827 or visiting

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Last Updated: 23 Mar 2017