• Small and mid-sized businesses have hired three times more people than larger businesses over the past five years
  • SMEs continue to be the main driver of record UK employment levels and could overtake large companies by 2030
  • Yet just a third (35%) of Generation Z and Millennials leaving full time education say they wish to work for an SME

The UK’s small and medium-sized businesses have created three times more jobs over the past five years than larger businesses, according to new analysis of the latest ONS data1 commissioned by Santander Business Banking.

While firms employing more than 250 staff added around 650,000 net jobs over the five years from 2013 to 2017 (a 4% increase), those employing less than 250 added 1.7 million (a 14% increase) - underscoring just how central SMEs are to the health of the UK economy and the country’s current record high employment levels.

While larger businesses continue to employ more people in absolute terms – 16.47 million people versus 13.96 million for SMEs – Santander’s analysis suggests SMEs will overtake larger businesses as primary employers by 2030 if the five-year growth trend continues at the same pace.

However, separate research2 commissioned by Santander Business Banking has found that significant numbers of young people are failing to recognise the significant job opportunities that SMEs offer. Just a third (35%) of Generation Z and Millennials leaving full time education say they wish to work for an SME, while an even smaller proportion, just one in six (18%), want to work for a start-up or micro business.

In contrast, the most popular career aspirations are to work for a large firm (51%), the public sector (51%) or a global multinational (49%).

This is despite nearly two thirds (64%) of Generation Z and Millennials, equal to around five million young adults in the UK, saying they are concerned about their career opportunities on leaving full time education – suggesting that many are potentially discounting the role that SMEs play in the economy.

Sue Douthwaite, Managing Director of Santander Business said: “While there are many great roles available working for large companies across the UK, SMEs remain the life blood of the UK economy. There is strong demand from SMEs for staff and we would encourage people to look at the fantastic career opportunities that may be open to them outside of larger firms. As a bank focused on bringing much-needed competition to SME banking, we are supporting thriving SMEs every day who are hiring for brilliant roles across all regions of the UK.”

Opportunities with SMEs are also growing fastest outside London. Between 2016 and 2017, the West Midlands and East of England saw the greatest increase in number of SMEs of any UK region. In the East of England there were 8,400 new SMEs set up over the past 12 months while in the West Midlands, 6,900 new SMEs were founded over the same timeframe, equating to a 6.4% increase in both cases.

A quarter of young people (24%) said they plan to search for job roles in the capital, despite London being home to only 15% of the UK’s jobs4. Greater Manchester is second in popularity, with one in 12 (8%) wishing to live there after leaving education, while Birmingham (7%) completes the top three, even though they account for only 4% and 2% of the nation’s jobs respectively.

The research by Santander Business Banking also found that the majority (70%) of SMEs5 are actively recruiting for entry level roles, whether that be graduates (43%), further education leavers (36%) or school leavers (35%).

To help connect graduates with SMEs, Santander runs a UK-wide Universities SME Internship Programme which matches up SMEs with interns at one of its 84 partner universities. SMEs can contact one of Santander’s partner Universities to find an intern who matches the needs of their business and are eager to begin their new career. Santander will then contribute funding of up to £1,500 to each SME per intern towards a placement of 1-10 weeks.

For more information about the Santander Universities SME Internship Programme please visit talent.santander.co.uk

- Ends -

The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Notes to Editors

Annualised employment growth trajectory of small and medium sized enterprises compared to larger businesses based on five-year historic growth figures (2013-2017) published in the ‘UK Business: Activity, Size and Location’ ONS data taken on 11 March 2017

2 Research conducted by YouthSight between 22nd June – 10th July 2018 among 1,574 16-25 year olds who have just left education or are planning to leave education in 2018.

2 Gen Z and Millennial population based on ONS estimates of the population for the UK (16-25 year olds), published 28th June 2018. There was a total of 8,116,139 people in this age group in mid-2017.

3 Analysis of UK labour market figures for August 2018, published by the ONS on 14th August 2018

4 Analysis of Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2017 provisional results, published by the ONS on 26 October 2017. All figures based on all adults in employment by gross annual pay (7.7a) and work geography.

5 Research conducted by Opinium among 500 SME decision makers between 14th – 20th June 2018

6 Analysis of ONS “Business population estimates for the UK and regions” comparing data on SME businesses employing 1-249 employees regionally and over time (excluding businesses with no employees)

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its innovative products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. At 30 June 2018, the bank has c24,200 employees. It serves around 15 million active customers, via a nationwide branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking; and 64 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

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