The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is urging more social care employers to take advantage of a scheme which funds apprenticeship training for small and medium-sized firms.
The WMCA set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund to cover the costs of apprenticeship training at smaller businesses, through large employers donating their unspent levy.
Over the past month, the scheme has created 84 new apprenticeships in the region’s social care sector.
Samantha Danks from Castle Meadows Nursing Home in Dudley has just started a Level 5 apprenticeship in medication administration
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Although these are very difficult times, the care sector is a key area where there are still opportunities for local people.
“It’s good news that we have been able to support 84 new apprenticeships in just one month through our levy transfer scheme. None of this would be possible without large employers donating their unspent levy, and it’s great to see care homes investing in better qualifications for their staff.
“I’d now urge any care providers from across the West Midlands that are planning to take on new apprentices, or want to upskill their existing workforce, to get in touch with us and find out how we can help.”
Care homes that are already benefiting from the scheme include Castle Meadows Nursing Home in Dudley, where three nursing assistants have enrolled on Level 5 apprenticeships – equivalent to a degree – in medication administration.
The private care home, which has 60 staff who are currently looking after 30 residents, accessed the levy funds through Dudley Council.
The local authority works with the WMCA to offer transfer of levy funds to small businesses in Dudley, especially in the areas of adult care and childcare.
The two-year course includes care planning, personal development, mental health, food and nutrition, infection prevention, and physical, emotional and spiritual support.
Care home manager Alison Cutbill said: “Being a small company, we have always struggled with staff training because of the cost involved.
“The levy funding is a fantastic opportunity for three of our team to increase their skills and gain new qualifications.
“Most of all, the investment makes our staff feel valued and appreciated, and will boost their confidence.”
Nursing assistant Samantha Danks, 42, has been with the company for three years.
She said: “I started the course a few weeks ago and it’s really rewarding because it’s challenging me. It will help me to build care plans and give better support to our residents.”
Birmingham-based training provider Pier Training supported Castle Meadows Nursing Home’s application for levy funding and is delivering the staff training.
Councillor Simon Phipps, cabinet member for procurement, transformation and commercialisation at Dudley Council, said: “With the Covid-19 outbreak, keeping vulnerable people safe and well in social care has never been more important.
“We’re very proud to be working in partnership with the WMCA and Pier Training to fund apprenticeship training at Castle Meadows Nursing Home.”
The apprenticeship levy is charged by HM Revenue and Customs on all businesses with a payroll of over £3 million. The levy money is held digitally by the Government, and businesses across the country can utilise the funds by paying for apprenticeship training and assessment costs by bringing in new talent or plugging skills gaps with their staff. 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.
To date, 518 learners and 202 SMEs across the region have benefited from the funding.