West of England Apprenticeship fund hits £1m mark to help small businesses support new talent

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More than a million pounds has been pledged to the West of England Apprenticeship Fund to help people develop new skills.

Two new organisations have pledged their support to invest in apprentices live at a Workforce for the Future online event, held by Business West and the Western Training Provider Network (WTPN), on Thursday 30 September.

The University of Bristol pledged £160,000 – this funding will be used for apprentices to help with the region’s economic recovery by supporting inclusive recruitment, green businesses, and companies involved in academic research.

NHS Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire CCG pledged a share of their £700,000 levy pot to support small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their supply chain, surgeries, social care SMEs and disadvantaged areas in the region.

This money is now available to support training costs for small businesses to take on new apprentices or develop the skills and prospects of existing members of staff through apprenticeship training.

The money has been pledged to the region’s Share to Support scheme, which is run by the West of England Combined Authority and The Western Training Provider Network. The money comes from apprentice-levy paying employers passing on their unused levy funds so that more apprenticeships can be created for local people.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “Thanks a million to all those who are making sure we keep this apprentice cash local.

“What a great collective effort to boost apprenticeship opportunities to equip people with skills they will need in our changing workplaces.”

Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at the University of Bristol, said: “We are proud to be pledging up to 10% of our apprenticeship levy to support organisations who would not usually be able to access the levy to create new apprentice roles or upskill existing employees.

“We hope that this apprenticeship levy will be used to improve social mobility; helping economic recovery by reducing employment skills gaps and supporting inclusive recruitment – particularly prioritising communities that experience high levels of employment deprivation.”

Dr Jonathan Hayes, Chair of NHS Bristol, North Somerset & South Gloucestershire CCG, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this important initiative, which benefits both local jobseekers and the small and medium-sized enterprises which employ so many people in our region. Apprenticeships are a great way to grow local talent as well as bringing new skills, experience and perspectives into organisations.

Nationally, it is estimated that between £4m and £8m of unused levy funds are returned to the Treasury each year.

The West of England Combined Authority and Western Training Provider Network (WTPN) launched Share to Support in the spring, as part of the Workforce for the Future Programme, to help smaller businesses recover through funding new apprenticeships.

Alex Richards Director of the Western Training Provider Network said: “The generosity of two important regional levy-paying employers will make a huge difference. In essence we are decentralising a proportion of apprenticeship funding and providing our local economy with much needed funds to support people and small businesses to recover and prosper. The Share to Support scheme is supporting businesses to meet skills needs, build capacity, capabilities, and develop employment pathways. These levy pledges will be the beginning of real human stories of personal development and transformation.”

With over 700 apprenticeships now available, small businesses across the West of England are already using the scheme to both grow and upskill their teams through apprenticeships.

The Share to Support scheme is open to small businesses, based in the West of England and also supports businesses looking to progress their trainees or kickstarts onto an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship fund is being delivered as part of the West of England Combined Authority’s  Workforce for the Future Programme, co-funded by the European Social Fund.

Employers can pledge their unspent apprenticeship levy or find out how to get support with apprenticeships by visiting: www.wtpn.org.uk/apprenticeship-levy-transfer.