The Share to Support fund will support the recovery of smaller businesses in the region through skills support.
Between approximately £4m-£8m of investment in training each year is lost to the West of England and returned to the Treasury. Apprenticeship levy funds paid by employers expire after two years if not used. With over 45,000 businesses in the region, the campaign is calling for large employers across the West of England to pledge their unspent apprenticeship levy to support the recovery of small businesses.
Small businesses have been hit disproportionately by Covid-19. With unemployment rates at a five-year high, the fund will support job opportunities for individuals and ensure small businesses are supported to meet their skills gaps and maintain supply chains to larger companies in the region.
The new fund follows Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s announcement of additional apprenticeship support for businesses, including a £3,000 cash incentive per apprentice recruit.
Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, said: “Backing our businesses with the skills they need to emerge strongly from the pandemic and protecting and securing well-paid jobs is at the heart of our plan for the region’s economic recovery. Apprenticeships are a key part of that, but around two-thirds of our small and medium businesses don’t think of using them. So I am trying to change that through our Workforce for the Future programme with the Western Training Provider Network.
“The Share to Support fund will help us to keep investment here in our region and enable more companies to benefit from the Apprenticeship Levy. This means more people have opportunities to develop the skills our businesses and employers need, now, and into the future.”
Alex Richards Director of the Western Training Provider Network said: “We are delighted that the Share to Support fund has been launched; we are experiencing a real demand for it. It’s a great partnership between regional government, business and education that aims to make a difference to the region. We hope that by keeping training investment local, the fund will create more career opportunities for our young people who are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and support smaller employers to build back better through skills and apprenticeships.”
The campaign is being delivered as part of the larger Workforce for the Future Programme, co-funded by the West of England Combined Authority and the European Social Fund.
Several large employers have already pledged to the Share to Support fund, including Bristol City Council.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We know that to build back better we must rebuild using a values-led recovery, and schemes like the Share to Support fund are vital in our path to recovery. By supporting local businesses, particularly social enterprises and charities, we are able to secure inclusive economic growth for Bristol and the entire partnership area.”
Several organisations have also shown their support for the scheme.
Phil Smith, Managing Director at Business West, said: “Business West really welcomes this support for larger employers to share their unspent levy with smaller businesses in the region.
“A strategic approach to directing monies into the SME supply chain, particularly the high manufacturing and Advanced Engineering sector, could really help SMEs develop their skills and workforce to meet the ever-changing needs of those innovative large businesses that are so key to the success of our region.”