The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) hosted an event (Wednesday May 11) to celebrate how a pioneering funding scheme has helped nearly 2,500 apprentices start work within businesses across the region.
The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme, which was set up by the WMCA three years ago, covers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) training and assessment costs of taking on an apprentice.
It uses money pledged by big business from their own unspent Apprenticeship Levy – a Government charge on all employers with a payroll of over £3 million and to pay for apprenticeship training. This unspent money would normally go back to Government but under the initiative it is transferred via partnership with the WMCA to fund apprenticeship at smaller local firms.
Mayor Andy Street at the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme celebration event
Apprenticeships offer a great route into work and into higher level roles for school leavers, graduates and those looking for a change of career.
The WMCA is aiming to get more local employers to take on apprentices or train their existing workers into new roles. Employers who do this say they gain significant business benefits including increased productivity and new ideas generation.
The event was hosted at The Eastside Rooms in Birmingham and attended by levy transfer employer partners, apprentices as well as businesses from across the West Midlands.
The event also recognised an additional £2.8m pledged in the last month by companies like HSBC, Lloyds, Pertemps, RAC, National Express, University of Birmingham, Lendlease, Arriva, and Mitie - bringing the total amount pledged to £37.5m.
To date, the scheme has benefitted close to 800 local SMEs who have been able to take on apprentices thanks to the funding.
The WMCA set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme to cover 100% of the training and assessment costs of apprentices at SMEs in the West Midlands, using the unspent levy pledged by big employers.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme has been a resounding success for our region – improving skills, providing jobs, and changing lives. I’m pleased therefore we have been able to take a moment to celebrate what we have achieved around apprenticeships in the West Midlands.
“Linking up our local talent with the plentiful opportunities on offer in industry is central to my 100k jobs plan as we bounce back from Covid. We must provide routes into high-quality well-paid employment so that the young people in our region have prospects ahead to excite them and keep them and their families here in the years ahead.
“Thanks to the funds that larger businesses have donated, nearly 800 SMEs have already directly benefitted by being able to bring on board apprentices. And so, I would very much encourage firms from across the West Midlands who are looking to upskill their workforce to get in touch with us and see how we can help.
“The skills that people are learning as a result of the Apprentice Levy Transfer Scheme will set them up well for future careers and ensure we provide a lasting legacy for people across the region.”
The transfer deal agreed with the Government in 2018 was the first of its kind in the country helping to boost skills, job opportunities and productivity by supporting more young people and adults of all ages into work.
HSBC Bank is one of the biggest donors into the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme and has helped transform the lives of more than 709 apprentices across the region.
Over the past three years, HSBC’s contribution has funded the training costs for 206 SMEs in the region’s fastest growing sectors including business and professional services, adult care, construction, digital and engineering.
To date, HSBC has pledged over £6.75 million and continues to support apprentices to look for the next step in their career.
Qasim Iqbal, Early Careers Lead UK at HSBC, said “Apprenticeships add enormous value to UK businesses of all types and sizes, as well as providing people who may not have gone to university with another route into challenging and rewarding careers.
“As a business proudly headquartered in the West Midlands and committed to supporting the economic growth of the region, we are delighted with the continued growth and success of the WMCA’s Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme.”
Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, said: “The Apprenticeship Levy Scheme is a great way 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.”
The WMCA is now calling on SMEs within the West Midlands who may not have considered hiring apprentices to tap into the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme.
Businesses wishing to register their interest 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