An innovative scheme set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to fund apprenticeship training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has secured in excess of £32 million, helping more than 2,280 people learn new skills.
Originally set up in March 2019, The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund allows some of the UK’s biggest businesses to cover 100% of the training cost of apprentices for SMEs by donating their unspent levy to the WMCA rather than see it returned to government.
To date, a total of £32.7m has now been pledged to the scheme with 725 SMEs benefiting from the fund.
The scheme has helped a total of over 2,280 people obtain an apprenticeship with those being supported coming from a variety of backgrounds including school leavers, graduates and those looking for a change of career.
In turn, the region ultimately benefits from more job opportunities and a boost in skills and productivity.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said “Thanks to the generosity of large organisations donating their unspent apprenticeship levy to us, more than £30 million has been raised to boost apprenticeships across the West Midlands.
“That means thousands of people making the first step in their careers, with hundreds of local SMEs taking on staff they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. Young people especially have been benefitting from our levy cash, which is incredibly important given they have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“So with National Apprenticeship Week starting today, I would encourage all large employers across the West Midlands to get involved and donate their unspent levy, as well as urge people looking for work and SMEs looking to take on apprenticeships to check out our levy scheme and see how it can benefit them.”
Pertemps are just one of the of the businesses to pledge their unspent apprenticeship levy to the WMCA transfer fund.
When asked about their involvement in the scheme, Tracy Evans, Group HR & Quality Director at Pertemps, said: “Working with the WMCA has enabled us to utilise our apprenticeship levy funding to support local SME’s in bringing apprentices into their businesses.
“From social care to plumbers’ electricians to digital and manufacturing, working across all levels of apprenticeships even including West Midlands Police. We’ve invested £2 million from our apprenticeship levy fund to support our local communities.
“The WMCA fits our longer strategic objectives of working with the communities in which we operate in and supporting young people who face difficulty in finding work is a key part of that. We strive to break down barriers hampering this group from finding employment and help them on their journey to finding rewarding employment.”
The recruitment firm has funded 120 learners across a wide variety of sectors including accountancy, business, construction, digital, finance and public service.
Amongst those who has been supported by the Pertemps funding is 18-year-old apprentice Jim Morgan, who works for James Elliot Construction in Telford.
He said “I was really keen to gain trade experience alongside my education at Telford College, so I reached out to some local companies and this apprenticeship was a perfect fit.
“I’ve been with James Elliot Construction now for nearly two years and have enjoyed the opportunity to learn a lot of skills that I’m keen to take on to a future career.
His employer, James Elliot, said “The apprenticeship levy that was donated was a massive incentive for me as it allows us to concentrate our funds on other important matters such as PPE and travel costs.
“Providing there is the right candidate, it certainly encourages me to take on another apprentice again in the future.”
The apprenticeship levy is charged by HM Revenue and Customers and held centrally by government. Businesses across the country can apply for funding to pay up to 95% of the costs of training their apprentices. Unspent levy contributions are ‘sunset’ and retained by government after a two-year period.
Under the WMCA’s deal, regional organisations can transfer their unspent levy to the combined authority’s fund – keeping the money within the region and avoiding the risk of it being sunset.
Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, and leader of Coventry City Council, said “This is a fantastic milestone and it is great to see so many big businesses get involved to help local businesses grow fresh talent through apprenticeship opportunities.
“Donating unspent levy can make a real difference in the lives of young people and those starting a new career, as well allow businesses to upskill their existing staff with apprenticeship qualifications.”
Businesses wishing to register their interest in the West Midlands Apprentice Levy Fund can sign up for more information at: www.wmca.org.uk/apprenticeship-levy
People considering starting an apprenticeship can find out more at: www.apprenticeships.gov.uk
To find out how the WMCA is helping young people gain access to work and training opportunities, visit https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/productivity-and-skills