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Supporting employers to fund apprenticeships – we need to get it right

Training our young people to have the specialist skills industry now demands is absolutely vital if the North East is to create more and better jobs.

I welcome that Government have recognised the vital role of businesses to make sure the future financing of apprenticeships is right for all and are asking business the best way forward for employers to take direct control of apprenticeship funding.

Its right that Nick Boles, the Minister for Skills and Equalities, in his response this week to consultation has emphasised the importance not to impose reform on companies who have expressed worries about possible unnecessary red tape, extra paperwork and potential cash flow problems.

While seeking more consultation with business to arrive at a final funding mechanism which works best for them may appear to be a frustrating delay, Government is acting responsibly based upon feedback from hundreds of firms.

Quite how employers are funded to take control of purchasing power to ensure employee training best fits their exact requirements needs more work, but feedback from business broadly supports the principle of employers leading the development of apprenticeship standards.

Organisations representing more than 500,000 companies have signed an open letter to this effect.

Freedom to select the training and services that best meet their needs will help to better grow business productivity and improve the long-term employment prospects of their apprentices.

In the meantime, the Government will continue to trial new employer-designed apprenticeship standards in this financial year, continuing through 2015-16 where the Government pays £2 for every £1 the employer invests in their apprentice’s training.

The North East LEP is also fully committed to helping the North East nurture and train the next generation of skilled employees local firms demand.

Through our European Strategy we have identified £4.7m every year for the next six years to improve links between business and education.

At the heart of our commitment is the North East Education Challenge. We are working with schools, business leaders and local education authorities to raise attainment levels by school children in STEM subjects in particular, to better equip them with the academic knowledge increasingly specialist employers need.

The prize for getting the balance right between supply and demand is a huge one.

A highly skilled workforce will underpin the growth of sectors where much of the North East’s future economic well-being lies – advanced manufacturing, marine offshore and digital industries for example all requiring specialist new workers to drive their rapid growth.

Andrew Hodgson
Vice Chair and Skills Lead