WMCA hits £21m in scheme to fund apprenticeship training for small and medium-sized businesses

A scheme set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to fund apprenticeship training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has smashed the £20m milestone.

The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund enables large employers to pledge their unspent levy to fund the training of apprentices at SMEs in the West Midlands – boosting the region’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of £21m has now been pledged to the scheme and to date, 1,840 apprentices at 613 SMEs have benefited from the fund over the past two years.

The fund keeps levy money within the West Midlands, boosting skills, job opportunities and productivity by supporting more young people and adults of all ages into work.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and former managing director of John Lewis, said: “Even in these difficult times, we know there are still hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities in our region, with many of these in growth sectors such as digital and construction.

“Thanks to large organisations donating their unspent levy, we’re creating new job opportunities at companies who may otherwise have been unable to hire apprentices, and equipping local people with the skills employers need – both now and in the future. This applies particularly to young people, who we know have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“With National Apprenticeship Week starting today, it’s an ideal time for large employers in the West Midlands that haven’t spent all their apprenticeship levy, or SMEs thinking about taking on new apprentices, to get in touch with us and find out how we can help you get people into work.”

Lloyds Banking Group was one of the first large employers to join the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund with a pledge of £3 million – one of the biggest contributions to date.

Businesses that have benefited from the WMCA’s partnership with Lloyds include Birmingham-based IT recruitment and solutions company Crimson, which has developed an in-house apprenticeship training academy, thanks to the levy transfer fund.

Twenty-two out of Crimson’s 100 staff are apprentices. They come from a variety of backgrounds including school leavers, graduates and those looking for a change of career. All the apprentices have the opportunity to complete a degree level IT apprenticeship within three years.

Business analysis apprentice Mihai Iacob, aged 26, from Shard End, graduated in law but found it difficult to gain his first job in the profession. As a result, he spent two years working in recruitment, specialising in recruiting software developers and software testers, which sparked his interest in technology.

He said: “I was put on furlough last April and used the time to learn how to code. After two months I decided to look for a job in the IT sector, and I found the role at Crimson on the Government’s apprenticeships portal. I started with the company last September and I already feel like part of the family. My ambition is to become a highly skilled software developer. It’s been a fantastic journey so far and I’m looking forward to what comes next.”

Cat Halstead, head of change and people development at Crimson, said: “We have found that our apprentices bring innovation and creativity. They offer a completely fresh perspective and a new approach to solving business problems for our clients. They have also enabled us to solve our original challenge, which was how to grow our business when facing a national digital skills gap. I would definitely recommend other organisations to take on apprentices and find out how the levy transfer fund could help them do this.”