Over 50 County Durham and Tees Valley businesses heard an update on the Government’s new apprenticeship levy at a North East England Chamber of Commerce and Teesside University event, held in conjunction with Tees Valley Combined Authority.

At the event held at Teesside University’s Darlington campus, the employers were given an overview of the Digital Apprenticeship Service and forthcoming changes to apprenticeship funding arrangements due to begin on 1 May 2017, by Beverley Moxon, Skills Funding Agency.


She explained there were new apprenticeship standards for different occupations and job roles which were drawn up by employers to ensure they were directly relevant to them.  There will also be an opportunity to train apprentices of all ages when current restrictions on age and prior qualifications are dropped.  The new scheme gives extra support to businesses and training providers who employ disadvantaged young people or apprentices aged 16-18.


Paul Carbert, policy adviser, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “To build a Working North East, we want to ensure that North East businesses and training providers can benefit from the upcoming apprenticeship reforms. The region has a great track record of delivering apprenticeships, and we will support members to make the most of new training opportunities.”


The employers heard an SME’s account of employing apprenticeships from Lee Harris of Middlesbrough-based Espresso Web.  He said they had employed apprentices for a number of years and had just opened an office in Newcastle where these employees were a vital part of their expansion.


He said: “Apprentices are so important to us.  They help us create a vibrant culture in the office and they also show great loyalty and commitment to the company.  We also make sure our apprentices get paid a living wage to recognise their contribution.”


Giving the perspective of a major manufacturer was Frances Hoy, HR director Nifco UK.  She said: “We place great emphasis on the importance of apprentices.  They can progress their career in our business as well.  For example, 85% of our management team were apprentices including our managing director, Mike Matthews.


“We get around 100 applications for each apprenticeship place but we still go out and visit schools and colleges to help spread information about what we offer.  Apprentices bring in new ideas and techniques to our company.


Laura Woods, director of The Forge, Teesside University’s business hub, highlighted the growing opportunities offered by higher and degree apprenticeships, and outlined the range of programmes available at the University, including the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, which starts in May.  These apprenticeships are aimed at increasing numbers of technical and professional staff to address productivity and plug skills gaps, and enable new or existing staff of any age to gain a higher education qualification in the workplace.


Further information is available from Teesside University (http://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/business/training/higher_degree_apprenticeships.cfm; tel 01642 384068) and on the Tees Valley Apprenticeship Hub (https://teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/teesvalleyskills/apprenticeship-hub/)