A partnership of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) with one of the UK’s biggest banks is helping the region’s economy to recover from the Covid-19 shutdown by funding £1.8m for apprenticeship training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The WMCA set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund to cover the costs of training apprentices at SMEs in the West Midlands, through large employers pledging their unspent levy.
Lloyds Banking Group was one of the first large employers to join the scheme with a pledged spend of £1.8m.
Curtis Albright, one of the apprentices who is benefiting from the WMCA's partnership with Lloyds Banking Group
Over the past year, this has funded the training costs of 250 apprentices at 135 SMEs in the region’s fastest growing sectors including business and professional services, adult care, construction, digital and engineering.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It is critical that we support new jobs and training opportunities for people right across the West Midlands as we move through the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. This applies particularly to young people, who we know historically are disproportionately affected by economic downturns.
“Thanks to Lloyds Banking Group and other big employers who have contributed to the levy transfer fund, we are helping more and more local people find work by equipping them with the skills employers need. The region must do everything it can to keep people in work or support those who fall out, and our apprenticeship training is just one part of our wider employment work.
“I’d urge any SMEs in the West Midlands that are thinking about taking on new apprentices, or anyone out there looking for a job or change of career, to get in touch with us and find out how we can help.”
Charged by HM Revenue and Customs on all businesses with a payroll of over £3 million, the levy is held by the Government for businesses across the country to utilise the funds to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment by bringing in new talent or plugging skills gaps with their staff. Any unspent levy is retained by the Government after a two-year period.
The WMCA uses its strong local knowledge and relationships to identify large businesses which can donate unspent levy to SMEs through the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, 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.
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, added: “As we recover from the Covid-19 shutdown, it’s vital that we support local SMEs to expand.
“Access to fully subsidised apprenticeship training means SMEs can recruit and train more apprentices to help their business grow and upskill their staff. Apprenticeships can now also be undertaken by staff who are on furlough.
“The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund is a great way for young people and adults of all ages to gain new jobs and qualifications.”
Norvent, a specialist services company which designs and installs ventilation systems, air conditioning, warm air heating and industrial pipework, is one of the SMEs that is benefiting from the WMCA’s partnership with Lloyds Banking Group.
Based in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, the company has 15 employees and took on Curtis Albright, aged 21, as an apprentice last September through training provider MakeUk. Curtis is on a four-year apprenticeship, working towards a Level 3 qualification in mechatronics.
Managing director Paul Jones said: “We are heavily invested in our staff and therefore taking on an apprentice was the next step into extending our team. When MakeUk gave us the opportunity to support entry-level talent into our industry, we were thrilled about the new prospects that would come along with it!
“Having ‘new blood’ in the company has really made such a difference to the workforce out on site. Curtis has already become immersed in the industry and is looking forward to joining us full time once his apprenticeship has finished.
“Where we would have thought twice about taking on apprentices before, the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund really helped us make our decision, and with MakeUK making it much easier, we would definitely recommend the scheme to anyone looking to take on apprentices.”
Curtis added: “I've always wanted to do an apprenticeship. We gain practical, hands-on experience with constant support from our tutors. I’ve improved my engineering skills and my understanding of basic mechanical engineering, and my confidence and initiative have grown immensely. I’m looking forward to putting the experience and knowledge I have gained into practice in a full-time role at Norvent.”
Jo Harris, Lloyds Banking Group ambassador for the Midlands, said: “Working with the WMCA to increase the number of apprenticeships and address skills gaps in the region is an important part of our support to drive the economic recovery in the West Midlands.
“Apprenticeships bring tangible business benefits, including increased productivity and performance; enhanced engagement and loyalty; and creating a more diverse workforce.
“It’s great to see that our investment has opened up new apprenticeships for people like Curtis and is helping to boost employment opportunities across the West Midlands at such a crucial time. I would encourage other large businesses to help to boost the region’s economic recovery by donating their unspent levy to smaller employers.”
The WMCA is now calling on SMEs who may not have considered hiring apprentices to tap into the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund. Large organisations are also being encouraged to get in touch to discuss transferring their remaining levy.