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Apprenticeships and training to be boosted by levy transfer scheme

A scheme which will help get people into apprenticeships in small businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk will be launched by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership today.

The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Pool is being set up in partnership with Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils and will help transfer unspent apprenticeship levy payments from levy payers to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in the area.

It will be officially launched at the Suffolk Skills & Careers Festival at Trinity Park near Ipswich on Wednesday 16 October. Employers exhibiting at the show will help more than 4,000 students learn about the fantastic training, careers and employers Suffolk has to offer – all in one place on one day.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson recently praised the project in Parliament saying: “We will very much look at working closely across the whole region of East Anglia on how best we can support this important initiative that makes sure that young people who want the training and people who are retraining have the right skills to be competitive in the jobs market.”

Apprenticeship starts in the East of England fell from 46,650 in 2015-16 to 36,700 in 2017-18, with 16 to 24-year-olds feeling the biggest impact. Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeships fell from 25,640 to 14,620 over the same period.

This reflects the national picture which shows starts declining from 509,360 in 2015-16 to 375,760 in 2017-18.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy highlights the need to ‘step up our efforts to promote and support the delivery of high-quality apprenticeships, providing clear entry routes into our focus sectors, directly producing the skills and capabilities our economy needs’. This is reinforced by the new Local Industrial Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: “Intervention is required in order to boost the number of apprenticeship starts, particularly among SMEs which make up the vast majority of employers in the area.

“This scheme is part of a wider series of actions designed to support apprenticeships across Norfolk and Suffolk and it is essential there is a coordinated approach across stakeholders. This will ensure we can maximise opportunities and prevent employers being engaged multiple times by different stakeholders.”

Natasha Waller, Skills Manager for New Anglia LEP, said: “This will be a massive boost for apprenticeships and training at a time when these opportunities are dwindling. People are central to all of our ambitions and goals and this underlines our commitment to help people of all ages set their aspirations high and open them up to the careers available to them.”

For the initiative to work effectively and to have a significant impact, it needs to be done at scale and with support for both the levy payers – companies with a staffing bill of more than £2 million a year – and the SMEs.

Levy payers with unspent levy need to be identified and encouraged to allocate some or all of their unspent levy to a virtual pot. Any preferred use of their funds – a certain apprenticeship standard, sector, location – will be identified at this stage.

The LEP or an endorsed partner will then source businesses direct or through an apprenticeship provider that has potential apprentices who are looking to ‘receive’ the funds. An introduction will be made and if all parties, including the training provider, are happy with the match, funds can start to be transferred.

New Anglia LEP is working with businesses, colleges and universities in the region to identify potential opportunities and a budget of £120,000 has been allocated to fund the development of the New Anglia Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Pool.

An apprenticeship levy coordinator has been appointed by the LEP and this post will be funded for the two years of the programme.

Alison Ward has worked in education for 18 years. At Great Yarmouth College, now East Coast College, she was responsible for managing the apprenticeship provision, with more than 800 apprentices and 600 employers working across a broad range of sectors including engineering, construction, health and social care and hospitality.

She successfully took the apprenticeship provision to a grade 2 and maintained this throughout her time there. Since leaving the college Alison has successfully supported an independent training provider to achieve Good from a Requires Improvement position the previous year.