Businesspeople from around the region learnt more about the new Apprenticeship Levy at a joint Gateshead College and North East England Chamber of Commerce event.
Held at Chamber Partner Member Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics at Team Valley, the 100-strong audience heard at first hand details about the new levy from Beverley Moxon of the Skills Funding Agency. She explained the decision to launch the initiative was due to a desire to improve investment in training by UK employers, and also help boost productivity.
She said: “The Government is firmly committed to helping to provide 3 million quality apprenticeships by 2020. If the apprenticeship quality is right we know businesses will sign up.”
The guests heard the digital apprenticeship service will be available in the near future, which will help businesses manage their own costs and funding. The eligibility rules for apprenticeship funding are also changing, to make it easier for employers to train existing staff members who may want to learn different skills. A focus on supporting disadvantaged groups will also be encouraged.
Tracey Greener from Northumbrian Water, with 3,000 members of staff, outlined her company’s experience. They have taken on 68 apprentices over an eight year period in a range of departments from electrical to mechanical and IT. She explained their apprenticeship strategy was based on succession planning to ensure the business had the right skills well into the future. They are going to use the levy payment for degree level staff development as there will be fewer restrictions on funding for a particular age and entry level than the current situation.
As a leading skills provider in the region, Gateshead College’s principal and chief executive Judith Doyle was keen to point out the range of support on offer to employers. She said: “As we move forward through the reforms on apprenticeships and the introduction of the levy, the support we can offer businesses will become far broader and wider reaching. It will go beyond the provision of training and skills, with our experts on hand to guide employers through the myriad of policy updates, obligations and other changes that they’ll need to understand.”
This event is part of the Chamber’s on-going campaign to help create an apprenticeship system that encourages increased participation in quality training by businesses of all sizes.