Two large employers are contributing £375,000 to boost apprenticeships at small and medium-sized firms through the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Sandwell Council and technology giant Amazon are the latest big employers to help the region’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 shutdown by pledging their remaining apprenticeship levy to the transfer fund.
The WMCA set up the Fund to cover the costs of training apprentices at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands.
The scheme has now created 704 new apprenticeships at 269 SMEs across the region.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and former managing director of John Lewis, said: “The success of the levy transfer fund depends on contributions from big employers, so it’s great news that Amazon and Sandwell Council have signed up and will help fund apprenticeship training at smaller organisations.
“Supporting local businesses in these challenging times is key to our region’s economic recovery from Covid-19, and I’d urge any SMEs in the West Midlands that are thinking about taking on new apprentices, or want to give their existing workforce better qualifications and skills, to get in touch with us and find out how we can help.”
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, any remaining levy contributions are retained by the Government.
The WMCA’s £69m Skills Deal agreed with the Government in summer 2018 was the first of its kind in the country and enabled the WMCA to set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund.
It allows the WMCA to partner large organisations with local SMEs. This means the large employers donate a portion of their remaining 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.
Doug Gurr, UK country manager at Amazon, said: “At Amazon we are proud to support small businesses, which make up more than half of all products sold on Amazon stores.
“In the West Midlands we want to back the wider small business community through the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund by ensuring businesses are able to access new talent and give people the opportunities to succeed in the digital age, regardless of their background.”
Cllr Danny Millard, deputy leader of Sandwell Council and cabinet member for employment and skills, said: “Apprenticeships are a great way for anyone aged over 16 to earn and learn at the same time and they can now also be undertaken by staff who are on furlough due to the current situation.
“We have taken on 372 new employees through apprenticeships and boosted the skills of 162 of our existing staff through apprenticeship qualifications.
“We are proud to be working with the WMCA to contribute £250,000 for apprenticeship training for businesses in Sandwell, which will help to increase economic growth, support people into jobs and improve skills within the workforce.”
Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, added: “As we emerge from the Covid-19 shutdown, we must make sure our economic recovery is inclusive and works for everyone in the West Midlands. The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund is a great way for local people to gain new jobs and qualifications, and for local businesses to upskill their workforce.”
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.