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Business owners and GM leaders urge employers to hire apprentices

Greater Manchester leaders are calling on Small and Medium Enterprises to create their own apprenticeship opportunities as employers hail the positive impact they have had on their businesses.

Business owners in the city-region have reported hiring an apprentice as a productive and effective way to develop a motivated workforce.

national survey found 78 per cent of employers said apprentices helped them to improve productivity, while 74 per cent said they have helped with improving the quality of their product or service.

Leaders in Greater Manchester are now urging other SMEs and small businesses to consider setting up their own apprenticeship opportunities and to reap the benefits of hiring apprentices as they continue to play a vital role in the city-region’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)-funded ESF Skills for Growth SME Support, in partnership with GMCA and Greater Manchester’s Levy Matchmaking Service, are hosting a webinar and workshop session for SME employers to learn about apprenticeships, as well as the support available and the benefits they can bring to a business. The session is taking place from 10am to 11.30am on 25 August.

The Skills for Growth SME Support is a wraparound service for SMEs, including a full service available for apprenticeship schemes which is delivered by the Growth Company and funded by GMCA. A £3,000 incentive is also available from the government to businesses hiring apprentices from now until the end of September. Further details can be found at gov.uk.

Thomas Johnson, director of Allied Vehicle Services in Leigh, said apprentices have played a crucial part in ensuring he has a functioning and skilled workforce.

He said: “We got Charlie through a work experience scheme. He’s interested in the job, he’s committed, he’s punctual and wants to work. As a result we took him on as an apprentice.

“Would I recommend an apprentice to other employers? Definitely. All industry fails without apprentices – we all need this influx of new blood no matter what business you have. If you can’t get new blood, if you can’t get new people in, to train them up to do the job how you want it doing and doing it right then the business will ultimately fail – you need apprentices.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Employers are telling us that apprentices are good for business. They will play an important part in ensuring our city-region’s economy can thrive as well as recover following the pandemic. Apprenticeships are also a great way of training people according to the needs of your business and upskilling your existing workforce.

“I urge SMEs, small businesses and companies to think about the benefits of creating apprenticeship opportunities within their business and the impact apprentices can have on improving your workforce. I strongly recommend attending the webinar session taking place to find out more about the support available.”

Greater Manchester’s Levy Matchmaking Service enables large employers with apprenticeship levy underspend to match with smaller businesses looking to hire apprentices. A total of 354 apprenticeship placements have started so far to date through the Levy Matchmaking Service, with more businesses being urged to take advantage of the opportunity.

SMEs in the city-region who have used the Levy Matchmaking Service have described how apprentices have helped their businesses to expand, diversify their workforce as well as bring new ideas and energy to the organisation.

Joanne James, Director of PLP Construction Ltd in Heywood, said she found apprentices have resulted in a “positive impact” on the company.

She said: “Apprentices develop their skills within the company, and we can mould them into the type of person we need in the role. They are learning in the way that we want them to learn, and they're developing skills the way we want them to develop.

“The levy matching service is a brilliant opportunity for me to get funding for apprenticeships. To find out about it and realise how straightforward it is, has been a huge benefit to our business.

“Once you find the right person and they're adding to your business, the benefits will be seen very quickly.”

Councillor Andrew Western, GMCA lead for Digital, Works, Skills and Clean Air, said: “In Greater Manchester we continue to work on growing the numbers of opportunities for apprenticeships. Our innovative Levy Matchmaking Service makes it possible for smaller businesses to diversify their workplaces, who may previously not have been able to support an apprenticeship.

“Levy matchmaking staff are on hand to give helpful advice on how to set up an apprenticeship scheme in your workplace.”

A total of 17,000 apprenticeships in Greater Manchester started in the academic year from 2019-2020 in every sector, including growth industries of Manufacturing, Finance, Digital as well as Health and Social Care as set out in the Local Industrial Strategy. It is hoped around 3,000 new apprentices will start their jobs this September.

To sign up for the Apprenticeships Webinar for SME employers’ event, you can register via this link. The session is open to any SME in Greater Manchester.

Anyone interested in finding out more about how to set up an apprenticeship scheme in their business can email enquiries@skillsforgrowthsme.co.uk. Visit the levy matchmaking service Home | GM Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Service (levymatchfinder.co.uk) for details on funding.

The project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.

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