On Wednesday 10th May, the Western Training Provider Network, which manages the region’s ‘Share to Support’ apprenticeship levy share scheme on behalf of the West of England Combined Authority, brought together both apprentices who had received funding for their training and larger employers who had gifted it to them.
The event, at the Engine Shed, heard stories of career growth and personal renewal and celebrated the scheme’s success.
Businesses, with a wage bill of over £3 million per year, pay 0.05% of their wage bill to the treasury every month or they can spend it on their own apprenticeship programmes. After a period of time if they don’t spend the funds in their apprenticeship account, it is lost from the region as it is returned to central government. However, there is the opportunity to gift up to 25% of their returning funds to help local, smaller businesses with apprenticeship training. Due to the generosity of the levy payer, a local business is supported & a local apprenticeship is created.
The regional ‘Share to Support’ scheme managed by the WTPN has been a huge success story, running since the spring of 2021 as part of the Combined Authority and European Social Fund ‘Workforce for the Future Programme’. The Share to Support scheme, has to date, received £3m worth of excess levy pledged for re-circulation locally. This has funded 240 apprentices in many different sectors from baking to software developers to healthcare support and electricians to name but a few.
Guests at the event included the gifting employers alongside well- known local employers, Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Bristol Sport Ashton Gate, the Universities of Bristol and Bath, local authorities, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Southern Co-operative, the NHS Integrated Care Board, and the scheme’s newest gifter B&Q who have recently pledged £1m to the scheme.
Meeting their patrons for the first time were the smaller businesses that had received their funds and the apprentices whose lives had changed because of the training and employment offers they secured via their apprenticeship.
Speakers on the night to celebrate the scheme’s success included the Metro Mayor Dan Norris, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost Judith Squires and Rebecca Scott MBE from the University of Bristol who spoke of their civic motivation and delight in supporting others with some of their unused funds.
Alex Gabchoug, Volunteer Manager at Bristol Drugs Project, said: “The levy share scheme has enabled Bristol Drugs Project to offer our apprentices the opportunity to complete a Lead Adult Care worker course alongside on the job training. Bristol Drugs Project recruits people with a history of lived experience of substance use, those who have been through the criminal justice system and who have little or no work history or qualifications. The scheme has proven to have enabled individuals to build on their confidence and skills, as well as giving them a purpose and a feeling of acceptance within our society. 90% of our apprentices go on to work in the support sector and have become valuable members of workforces and their communities.”
Also announced on the night was the well-known, long standing, local apprentice employer Airbus who have committed to join the scheme formally.
Louise Holmes and Helen Steele from Airbus commented: “Airbus ran a 6-month pilot before committing to go further with the Share to Support scheme. We can confidently say it has been a success and we are pleased with the uptake and ease of process. The process ran smoothly and we received applications from a wide range of organisations from Domestic Plumbing to social care. We have made the decision to continue to transfer funds because we see the value to the local community and we wish to see an increase in Apprenticeships nationally. We are delighted to continue to support local businesses to develop their employees and grow their organisations.”
Jane Yorke, Apprenticeship Develop Manager at the WTPN, said: “We are delighted to bring together the gifting employers and just some of the many recipients of funds they have supported. It was a real celebration of the power of apprenticeships and the power of looking after our smaller businesses and their apprentices. Many of our guests have agreed to meet again to follow each other’s progress. It was the real, life changing personal stories which made a difference, you could see and hear the impact on just a few of the many apprentices this scheme has supported.”