It’s time to take action on apprenticeships

Elaine Bowker, principal of the City of Liverpool College, on the need to make sure small firms have access to funds to offer more apprenticeships

Elaine Bowker, principal of The City of Liverpool College


Last week during National Apprenticeship Week we celebrated the positive contribution the apprentices make to our economy.

The week may be over but the issues around apprenticeships that we need to address, are ongoing. Business groups are calling for changes to the system, to provide small businesses with desperately-needed funding, to take on and train more apprentices.

Apprenticeships have become a vital part of the economy and employment market, so this call to action should come as no surprise. Small firms in particular play a critical role, offering nine out of 10 apprenticeships for 16- to 24-year-olds, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

However, the latest figures showed the number of people starting an apprenticeship in England fell to 125,800 between August and October, down 4.7% from 132,000 in the same quarter a year earlier. In order to address the issue, it’s vital we find ways of ensuring businesses and education providers can work together, providing opportunities for apprentices and skilled, work-ready staff for industry.

In 2018, to support the uptake of apprentices, the Government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy, requiring all employers operating in the UK, with an annual pay bill of over £3m, to pay a 0.5% levy on their tax bill.

The levy was introduced to encourage employers to offer apprenticeships in meeting their skills, workforce and training needs. For businesses, it’s an opportunity to have a root and branch review of their structure, re-think their approach to workforce development and further grow their business.

However, it has also been noted by London First and the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT), that almost a fifth of larger businesses (17%) had not used all of their apprenticeship levy funds, largely down to confusion around the levy itself.

As the biggest college in the city, here at the City of Liverpool College, we aim to help people from all backgrounds and of all ages, gain experience in their chosen profession. We work closely with some of the biggest and best employers in the region to ensure our students get the most out of their experience by teaching them the advanced skills required to work in their chosen industry.

Apprentices on board RSS Sir David Attenborough at Cammell Laird. Picture by Tony McDonough


The employers we work with look for students with passion and an appetite to learn on the job, to help create an industry of young, employable professionals.  

We have some great partnerships across a range of sectors and we are proud to be delivering the skills the city region needs by offering training and support for employers around the impact of the reforms and the introduction of the apprenticeship standards.

We want the businesses that we collaborate with to get the most out of the partnership and the benefits the Apprenticeship Levy brings, and we work closely with them to ensure that they attract and retain the individuals with the skills and expertise that are most relevant to their organisation.

By investing in their people and their qualifications and skills, businesses are equipping themselves to build high-performing teams to drive their business forward and boost long-term employee retention.

Apprenticeships and training of the very highest calibre play a vital role, not just for businesses here in Liverpool, but also for the region’s economy as a whole to help people and businesses thrive, and I would encourage our region’s businesses to consider how they could benefit.

Our talented people, with their desire and determination to learn, hold the key to boosting businesses in the region.

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