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Firms urged to share training funds

UK: BESA has welcomed the announcement that large construction employers can now help smaller supply chain partners recruit and train apprentices by sharing their apprenticeship levy funds.

The National Apprenticeship Service has confirmed that, from this April, companies who pay into the Levy will be able to transfer up to 10% of that money every year to other employers or apprenticeship training agencies.

As well as unlocking desperately needed funding for apprentices, they see this as a way to encourage greater supply chain collaboration to address specific skills shortages.

Levy-paying employers will only transfer funds once they have agreed the type of apprenticeship being supported with the receiving company or organisation. This is intended to address the criticism that funds are not always being directed into areas of the greatest need.

The funds will also only be available to pay for training and assessment towards the new employer-led apprenticeship standards as the government phases out the old apprenticeship frameworks in order to improve the quality and targeting of training.

“This is great news for SMEs in construction-related fields,” said Tony Howard, director of BESA Training. “It makes more of the Levy funding available to the professions and geographical areas where it can do the most good. It also means that non-levy paying firms will have more faith that the funding will actually be made available to them if it comes from their supply chain. This should give them the confidence to go out and recruit the apprentices our industry needs.”

He added that this was another way in which the delivery of training was changing and becoming more innovative. It should also help companies, who currently don’t use apprentices, see the benefits.

“This is an amazing opportunity not to be missed and I would urge all employers to get into dialogue with their supply chain partners about how they can make best use of these vital funds,” said Mr Howard.

The allowance from the large employer could be used to recruit apprentices for specific projects or for longer term objectives in partnership with smaller organisations they trust and with whom they have long-term working relationships.

“By working together, supply chain partners can make sure the right people are being recruited into our sector,” added Mr Howard. “For example, the small employer may think they need a gas engineer, but the larger firm with a broader overview of the work may advise that the money would be better spent on training up a service and maintenance engineer to maintain the job after the build process has finished.

“There is a tendency in our industry to focus on core traditional skills, which are still crucial, but with the rapid changes in modern project methods it might be more appropriate for a sub-contractor to bring a project manager on board.”

BESA said this initiative also sent out a supportive message for the new standard Trailblazer apprenticeships designed to produce a future generation of apprentices with skills suited to modern methods of construction.

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