The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is helping businesses to embrace the power of apprenticeships, ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February).
WECA’s Workforce for the Future programme is funding the new West of England Apprenticeship Service for small and medium-sized businesses, launched this week by the Western Training Provider Network. The service provides free impartial apprenticeship support for businesses to help meet their business needs.
The Combined Authority is leading the region’s economic recovery, which includes a range of projects to improve skills provision for people across the West of England. Apprenticeships will play a key role in supporting businesses and residents – both now and for the future.
Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, said: “Getting residents back into jobs that pay above the living wage and offer employment security, through training and work to match skills to opportunities is one of the five key ambitions of our Recovery Plan.
“Apprenticeships help our businesses and our economy grow by attracting and keeping the brightest and best people here in our region. However, it’s still an under-used resource for around two-thirds of our small and medium businesses. So I am very proud that the Combined Authority is funding the West of England Apprenticeship Service through our Workforce for the Future programme.
“Programmes like this will help keep investment here in our region and enable more companies to benefit from the Apprenticeship Levy. This means more people have opportunities to develop the skills our businesses and employers need, now, and into the future.”
The West of England Apprenticeship Service offers SMEs across the region (Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire) independent and impartial advice, resources and practical apprenticeship support, with bespoke solutions and training. Its aim is to enable at least 60 new apprenticeships over the three-year programme.
Employers taking on new apprentices may benefit from government incentive payments. Apprentices can also help improve a company’s bottom line by boosting productivity.
Alex Richards, Director of the Western Training Provider Network, said: “We know that apprenticeships provide small and medium-sized businesses with a cost-effective way to bring in new talent, plug skills gaps and retain and develop employees.
“However, 64.9% of SMEs across the West of England have never used apprenticeships. The launch of this service provides an opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to access a free, impartial apprenticeship support service, at a crucial time. Our work helps businesses to navigate the apprenticeship system which can at times seem complex and then match them to a relevant training provider, college or university, ensuring they can meet their current and future skills needs.
“As well as supporting SMEs, our new regional Apprenticeship service can also facilitate apprenticeship levy share between larger and smaller businesses, keeping vital training resource in our region rather than unspent levy being lost. We encourage larger businesses that can, to pledge their unspent levy to our regional service and help smaller businesses on the road to recovery.”
The theme for this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is “Build the Future”. It aims to encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.
The following virtual events are taking place over the coming weeks for West of England businesses to find out more about opportunities for apprenticeships:
Tuesday 9 February, 1-2pm
Apprenticeship Week webinar – including more details on the West of England Apprenticeship Service – hosted by the IoD South West, with Western Training Provider Network and Business West
Wednesday 10 February, 10:30-11:30am
Widening participation in apprenticeships – coffee break dial-in with the South West Apprenticeships Ambassador Network and Business West
Friday 12 February, 9-10am
Understanding degree apprenticeships – coffee break dial-in with the South West Apprenticeships Ambassador Network and University of the West of England
Wednesday 24 February, 10-11am
Business West FAQ on the Government’s Kickstart apprenticeship programme
Thursday 25 Feb, 10-11:30am
Business West workshop, through WECA’s Workforce for the Future, on using your company story to attract and retain the best talent
For more details and to book a place, please visit WECA’s West of England Growth Hub virtual events page