The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on the government to reintroduce work experience for all school pupils aged 14 to 16.
The coalition government abolished compulsory work experience for students in England at key stage 4 in 2012 and has faced calls from business groups since to reinstate it.
The FSB says the current government policy makes it harder for students to get their first taste of working and for small firms to engage with schools and communities.
Work experience guidance
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry, said: “Small firms want to be able to take on more young people for work experience, but they need to have the support in place to liaise with schools to ensure both parties can make the most of the experience.
“Since the changes were made in 2012, it has become increasingly difficult for small businesses and young people to arrange work experience.
“More than 40% of small firms already offer work experience either as part of the recruitment process or through their community outreach, but now it’s time that this is taken to the next level.
“Smaller firms are more likely to hire people from harder to reach backgrounds, which is why the reintroduction of work experience would be a valuable leg up for students looking to experience work and small firms looking to plug their recruitment gaps in the future.”
In February, an FSB report, Small Business, Big Heart, called for a one-year national insurance holiday for small firms that employ people furthest from the labour market. The report found that eight in ten (80%) small businesses are actively involved in their community.
The small business group also called on the government to reintroduce a form of the Percentage Threshold Scheme that was shelved in 2014 and enabled small businesses to reclaim a share of statutory sick pay if their SSP expenditure exceeded a set percentage of their total national insurance bill.