Economy Work and Skills

£4m skills fund is supporting business recovery from COVID-19

  • 130 apprenticeships started, 116 more identified
  • 200+ SMEs benefiting, 25 large companies donating
  • First 12 months of levy matchmaking service hailed a success

Businesses in Greater Manchester have been urged to use millions of pounds that are available for apprenticeship training as part of a package of support to recover from COVID-19.

Up to £4m is currently available in the city region to pay training fees – at no cost to the employing organisation.

The call comes after new figures revealed the success of a Greater Manchester scheme to transfer the unspent millions of pounds allocated for apprenticeship training from large employers to small and medium sized businesses.

The Greater Manchester apprenticeship levy matchmaking service has supported more than 240 apprenticeships, spread across more than 50 businesses, since it was launched in August 2019.

The service is commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and is provided by the Manufacturing Institute, part of the Growth Company.

Since it was launched in August 2019, the apprenticeship levy matchmaking service has:

  • had around £4m in funds committed to it
  • seen 130 apprenticeship starts
  • matched a further 116 apprentices in training, due to start in the coming months
  • committed levy funds of nearly £2.5 million to pay for apprenticeship training
  • signed up 25 companies as levy donors, including household names such as Lloyds Banking Group, Co-op, the BBC, Compass Group and Timpson
  • signed up more than 200 small and medium sized businesses, of which more than 50 are currently benefiting from matched funding

Staff being trained through apprenticeships include:

  • health care workers
  • social workers
  • nurses
  • firefighters
  • chefs, waiters, kitchen staff and front of house staff
  • accountants
  • engineers
  • software developers
  • digital marketers
  • content producers
  • business administrators
  • managers

Councillor Sean Fielding, Greater Manchester lead for employment, skills and digital, said: “Improving the skills of our workforce is absolutely essential to the success of Greater Manchester’s economy.

“Apprenticeships build higher level and technical skills both for young people and for existing and older employees, helping them to become more productive and efficient.

“The levy matchmaking service provides the funding for the apprenticeship training at no cost to the employer and it also helps to develop great relationships between big companies and the smaller organisations they support in this way.

“Our digital service in Greater Manchester is supported by a team that brokers and develops relationships between those companies and which helps to support small and medium sized businesses to grow.

“A great deal has been achieved in our first year, but there is much more money available in the fund and I would urge organisations that are looking to upskill their staff or take on new recruits to consider this as an option.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, added: “As we go into a recovery phase from the COVID-19 crisis it is clear that we must renew our focus on improving skills and investing our workforce.

“We know some people will lose their jobs in sectors that have been worst hit, but there will be opportunities for them to retrain and develop skills in areas of growth.

“This funding will help businesses to recover and to grow, particularly in the sectors identified in our local industrial strategy.”

Mo Isap, co-chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "As our region recovers from COVID-19 the need to support our young people and ensure that our workforce has the skills required to thrive is greater than ever.

“That's why I'm calling on any organisation with unspent apprenticeship levy to take part in the GMCA Apprenticeship Levy Matchmaking Service.

“Younger apprentices are particularly vulnerable as we face unprecedented economic challenges and the levy transfer will help us support SMEs to continue recruiting, training and investing in young apprentices across our ten districts. Let's work together to deliver on our commitment to youth employment in Greater Manchester."

Case study – How Lloyds Banking Group is helping a growing social enterprise

Bedspace, a social enterprise that provides housing and support to vulnerable young people and asylum seekers, has been provided with £48,000 to support eight of its staff through apprenticeships, using levy funding from Lloyds Banking Group.

So far four of its employees have been accepted onto the scheme from its 150-strong workforce in Greater Manchester and additional staff will be identified and placed on it later in the year.

Bedspace began to use the scheme in June this year and the apprenticeships will take between a year and 18 months to complete.

Georgina Fisher, training officer at Bedspace, says: “People who work for us have years of experience working in our industry, they are very loyal and dedicated to their jobs, and part of our learning and development commitment to our staff is to support them achieve formal qualifications like NVQ3 in social care.

“It’s been a really smooth process and we will definitely apply for more funding. Our staff are eager to start studying and to apply the knowledge they learn in their everyday work with young people.”

Melanie Williamson, head of HR and training at Bedspace, adds: “It’s been an invaluable scheme for us. Ultimately, supporting our staff to achieve their social care NVQ means that the young people we support will benefit from the qualifications our employees achieve and that’s what Bedspace is all about – achieving successful outcomes.”

For Ian Browne, who allocates Lloyds Banking Group’s apprenticeship levy funds, the matchmaking service allows his organisation to fulfil the bank’s mission of “Helping Britain prosper”.

Ian Browne says: “We are passionate about apprenticeships – we have 2,000 apprentices in our own business – but it is still challenging for us to be able to spend all of our own apprenticeship levy.

“Our fortunes are tied to that of our local economies, so we fully support Greater Manchester and the North West’s work to develop skills in its areas of growth and particularly its ambitions to develop high skill employment and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), digital and leadership skills.”

Lloyds Banking Group has to date committed over £1.5m through the Greater Manchester levy matchmaking service. Around half of these are new hires and half represent businesses using apprenticeships to refresh and upskill existing employees.

When Ian saw the invitation on the levy matchmaking website posted by Bedspace he also saw the opportunity to help a growing organisation and bring together other programmes within Lloyds Banking Group that could help the broad mission of Bedspace, such as helping young people with financial literacy and the journey towards financial independence.

Ian adds: “The service brings together two organisations that otherwise would not have met and opens up a conversation about how we can help each other. As you’d expect, Lloyds Banking Group has a vast range of programmes and initiatives that help businesses, charities and social enterprises. While helping with levy transfer I also learn more about each organisation and I’ll try to connect with other Lloyds Banking Group initiatives that can help organisations be successful.

“We’re thoughtful how we can help businesses who are out there creating jobs in challenging times and we will support businesses regardless of whether they bank with Lloyds or elsewhere. Levy transfer is so important for Greater Manchester in creating employment, growing skills and securing futures.”

How the Greater Manchester levy matchmaking service works

Organisations that have a payroll over £3 million are required to pay the apprenticeship levy to fund apprenticeships, either in their organisation or another.

If the levy is not used it must be repaid to the Treasury after the two-year anniversary. However, up to 25% of their unspent funds per year can be instead allocated to help smaller companies by using the levy matchmaking service.

Organisations register with the site and state what their requirement for training is.

The service works to find them a match with a levy-paying organisation and once a match is found the funding is paid direct to the training provider delivering the apprenticeship programme.

The levy transfer can only be used for apprenticeship training costs.

Article Published: 29/07/2020 10:04 AM