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Apprenticeships: Mayors back 7-point recovery plan

The mayors of London, Manchester and Liverpool have united behind a seven-point plan to save apprenticeships.

The mayors of London, Manchester and Liverpool have backed a seven-point plan to save apprenticeships.

The plan, proposed by business groups London First and the North West Business Leadership Team, urges the government to take immediate steps to support the apprenticeship system or risk a lost cohort of young people.

Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have all united behind the plan as apprenticeship starts continue to drop.

In May, Department for Education data showed that apprenticeship starts had plummeted since the beginning of lockdown. The business groups warn that starts are expected to drop by 50 per cent this September.

Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson said that young people should be guaranteed an apprenticeship in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its likely impact on the UK economy, but no official plans have been announced yet.

The seven-point plan urges the government to introduce a long-term “back to work” fund to help businesses take on apprentices, to provide funding relief fairly for all apprenticeships and to give businesses greater flexibility in how to use apprenticeship levy funds.

‘Swift action, innovation and open dialogue’

Mr Khan said that apprenticeships have a vital role in the capital’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis by providing important opportunities for Londoners and ensuring the city’s businesses have access to the skills they need.

He said: “I’m urging the government to adopt these seven measures to incentivise and support businesses to create apprenticeships, particularly for young Londoners and those who are out of work who have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19. I’ve called on ministers to give me the powers and funding to establish a London Apprenticeship Service, building on the business support I’ve provided through the London Progression Collaboration.

“We must do all we can to create the opportunities young and economically vulnerable Londoners need now more than ever.”

Sandy Lindsay, skills lead and vice chair at the North West Business Leadership Team, said that now is a time for “swift action, innovation and open dialogue” between government and business.

She said: “This is not a time for bureaucracy and delay; this is a time for swift action, innovation and open dialogue between government and business. We are calling on government to work with us to look at ways to free up finance that can be used to save the jobs of thousands of young people, as well as the skills that will be needed by businesses into the future.”

The plan in full

  1. Introduce a long-term “back to work” fund to help businesses take on apprenticeships, and minimising the costs of apprenticeships to firms, guaranteed for a minimum of three years, which would include the removal of the “co-investment” fee that non-levy paying employers are currently having to find towards to the training of their apprentice.
  2. Provide funding relief fairly for all apprenticeships, so that apprenticeship training providers can be funded where training has been paused.
  3. Support providers and businesses to continue to offer apprenticeships safely, with clear guidance on how to operate safely and suspending face-to-face requirements, so that apprenticeships are not forced to fail through being unable to complete in-person training.
  4. Give businesses greater flexibility in how they use levy funds, by making it easier to transfer funds to other firms via a single digital transaction, pausing payments and extending the date that they can be used where businesses are unable to return to normal activity.
  5. Improve communications channels between businesses and the apprenticeship system, with a one-stop-shop for employers to access information and support.
  6. Work with SMEs to trial innovative approaches that boost demand, such as shared apprentices.
  7. Promote apprenticeships to young people and their families, emphasise the role of them in the economic recovery, and highlight the long-term opportunities they provide.
Kate Parker
Kate Parker is a junior FE reporter
Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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