Telecoms giant BT has become the latest big employer to sign up to the unique West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund.
BT has agreed to contribute a portion of its unspent Apprenticeship Levy to help cover training costs for apprentices at small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region.
SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK has also signed up to provide a percentage of its unspent levy to the fund.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said the money would be put to good use helping SMEs to grow and creating new job opportunities in the region.
He added: “I am delighted that BT and SUEZ have signed up to transfer their unspent levy to our fund, following on from the likes of HSBC and Lloyds.
“When the WMCA agreed the £69m Skills Deal with Government last summer, we were given power to use that money locally to provide a huge boost for our SMEs and create hundreds of apprenticeship job opportunities.
“These new contributions from BT and SUEZ will be used to help SMEs to grow their business. The money will cover the costs of training apprentices – creating new job opportunities in the region with smaller employers who may otherwise have been unable to afford to hire apprentices, and helping those SMEs to grow and expand as a result.”
Under the Skills Deal agreement, WMCA was given unique powers to transfer unspent levy from large businesses (those with a payroll over £3m) and use the funding to cover 100% of apprentice training costs for non-levy paying SMEs.
Mark Younger, sales director at Jackdaw Tools in Willenhall, last week explained that the WMCA’s levy transfer fund had allowed his firm to “take the plunge” and hire a digital marketing apprentice, Sean Faulkner.
BT said it was committed to apprenticeships and delighted to use its unspent levy for the benefit of SMEs in the West Midlands.
Giles Ellerton, BT regional director for the Midlands and East Anglia, said: “BT has embraced the recent reforms and used the levy to increase the number of apprentices we employ.
“We now have around 6,000 apprentices working across BT and Openreach. It’s fantastic that we’re able to use some of our unused levy funds to support WMCA’s levy transfer programme. Not only are we providing career opportunities at BT, but we’re also able to help small to medium companies in the West Midlands region provide additional apprenticeships in digital roles.
“Through our own apprenticeships and the extra jobs created through this scheme, we can help more young people gain access to excellent training and career opportunities.”
Claire Townsend, who leads on apprenticeship development at SUEZ, said: “We are so pleased to be working with the WMCA to transfer a portion of our unspent Apprenticeship Levy to help small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) across the West Midlands region.
“At SUEZ, learning is at the heart of our talent strategy. While we have identified talent locally to undertake apprenticeships within the West Midlands area of our business, we are fortunate to also be able to transfer a portion of our unspent Apprenticeship Levy to help smaller businesses.
“We hope that this will mean that more apprenticeships are offered by SMEs and that the learners can benefit directly from the same learning opportunities that apprentices at larger organisations are benefiting from.”
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and portfolio holder for productivity and skills at the WMCA, said: “The levy fund is a great way for us to create more apprenticeships in the West Midlands.
“It helps support SMEs who want to expand and grow by covering the costs of them training an apprentice. At the same time, the levy fund is creating new job opportunities by supporting SMEs to hire apprentices.
“I’d encourage other companies to follow BT, HSBC, Lloyds and SUEZ by signing up to transfer their unspent levy – and I’d urge SMEs to apply for funding so they can expand and hire new apprentice staff.”
For more information on the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, and to find out how to apply for funding to train apprentices, visit: www.wmca.org.uk/apprenticeship-levy