Big employers give huge boost for small companies to take on apprentices

A further £750,000 has been pledged to the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), thanks to new contributions from three large organisations.

Buildbase, the RAC and the University of Warwick are the latest big employers to pledge their unspent apprenticeship levy to the transfer fund.

The money pays for training and assessment costs for apprenticeships at small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands, with more than 150 apprentices benefiting so far.

Big employers give huge boost for small companies to take on apprentices

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street is pictured third from the left, launching the West Midlands Apprenticeship Promise last year

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and former CEO of John Lewis, said: “The Government is enabling us to work with businesses to transfer levy funds in the region, and now we are delivering on this to create more apprenticeships for local people.

“The success of the levy transfer fund depends on contributions from big employers, so it’s brilliant news that Buildbase, the RAC and the University of Warwick are transferring their unspent levy funds to boost apprenticeship training at smaller organisations.

“Ultimately, we aim to collect up to £40m to help local people to benefit from new opportunities, with more smaller businesses able to expand their workforce.”

The apprenticeship levy is charged by HM Revenue and Customs on all businesses with a payroll over £3m. The levy money is held centrally by Government, and businesses across the country can apply for a slice of that funding to pay up to 95% of the costs of training their apprentices. After a two-year period, unspent levy contributions are ‘sunset’ and retained by the Government.

The £69m Skills Deal agreed with the Government in summer 2018 – the first of its kind in the country – set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund by allowing the WMCA to partner large organisations with local small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This means the large employers donate a portion of their unspent apprenticeship levy funds to the smaller companies, covering 100% of their apprenticeship training and assessment costs.

This approach keeps levy money within the West Midlands region, boosting skills, job opportunities and productivity by supporting more young people and adults of all ages into work.

Adrian Rowley, learning and development manager at Buildbase, said: “When the apprenticeship levy was introduced, we were keen to make the most of the opportunity to train and develop new and existing team members. We launched an internal training academy that delivers intermediate and higher apprenticeships so apprentices joining us on our Level 2 programme can now progress to gain the equivalent of a foundation degree.

“Early on, we realised there would be surplus levy funds in our account and we were keen to make sure this money was reinvested into apprenticeship opportunities in the local area, particularly supporting the construction industry. This is why we were delighted to see that the WMCA had spotted the opportunity to match large employers with smaller organisations that needed apprenticeship funding.” 

Heather Somers, RAC learning and development manager, said: “The Apprenticeship Levy has helped both new and existing RAC colleagues to develop their skills immensely. We now have apprenticeships at all levels across motor vehicle engineering, customer service, leadership and digital, producing some fantastic results which enable us to continue delivering exceptional service to our members.

“We are delighted that we can help support the local business community by working in partnership with the WMCA. By developing skills primarily in motor engineering and the digital sector, we have an opportunity to make a real difference to individuals and invest in our community.”

Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said: “We are delighted to support apprenticeships in our region by committing £280,000 to the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund. By doing so Warwick will be investing in the future of our region by providing skills and training in the growth areas of science, technology, engineering and medicine and will open up apprenticeship opportunities to SMEs and wider sections of our community.

“Warwick is proud to be an employer of apprentices and to be part of creating this fantastic, new opportunity and we look forward to supporting their success.”

For more information on the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, and to find out how to apply for funding to train apprentices, visit: or contact