Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 12.59.50Eighty North East training providers have come together for a meeting of minds to discuss unprecedented funding cuts and major government reforms to apprenticeships.

A senior representative from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) addressed the region’s further education sector at the annual general meeting of North East Learning Providers (NELP).

Keynote speaker, Nick Linford, who is editor of further education trade publication FE Week, also gave his thoughts on how he thinks the changes to apprenticeships will impact on independent training providers.

Despite the uncertainly caused by major cuts and the challenges associated with adapting to a complete overhaul of how apprenticeships will be delivered, Anthony Knowles from the SFA said there are new opportunities to be had for a region that produces more apprentices than any other.

Statistics from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) show that the north east is delivering more apprenticeships than the rest of the English regions by quite a margin. The region has 18.3% apprenticeships per 1,000 residents, compared to the England average of 12.7% for 2013/14.

Anthony Knowles, senior figure at the SFA and National Apprenticeship Service, said: “Apprenticeships in the north east are bigger than anywhere else in England.

“You’ve continued to deliver a really high number of apprenticeships – despite all of the change going on around the sector. That is a real strength that this region has in terms of responding to and taking the opportunities that the various apprenticeship reforms actually offer.

“Because you’ve already got that critical mass, in terms of engagement, both in terms of young people and parents who understand and buy into our passion for apprenticeships, and in terms of businesses who are actually taking on apprentices.

“It’s a really positive picture for the north east. Let’s keep the north east at the top. We always need more employers offering more opportunities and we need to encourage this.”

The government is currently consulting on plans to introduce a levy paid by large employers to cover the cost of delivering apprenticeships. They have made a pledge to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

Chair of NELP, Malcolm Armstrong, said: “2014 /15 was another tough year for our sector. All training providers have faced funding cuts for 2015/16 – some in the region of 30 percent. We know the government is seeking further savings and is set on fewer and larger providers. Provision outside apprenticeships seems to be particularly vulnerable.

“Over the next couple of years training providers will have to grapple with the employer levy, digital vouchers and the increasing roll out of Trailblazers. But by sticking together, collaborating and sharing ideas, we will get through this challenging time. That is why being a member of a strong network like NELP has never been more relevant.”

North East Learning Providers (NELP) is a confederation of training providers which deliver work based learning.

Members include independent training providers, colleges, employers, local authorities and voluntary organisations that operate within Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside. It aims to promote, represent and support its members and the training sector as a whole.

NELP works closely with the training sector’s funding bodies including the Skills Funding Agency and the National Apprenticeship Service. Its members deliver vocational training for hundreds of employers and thousands of learners throughout the north east region.

NLP is a not for profit organisation. For more information and how to join go to www.nelp.co.uk