The Chancellor’s announcement today of a new package of support for skills and productivity is an endorsement of pressure applied by the West Midlands business community.
That was the verdict after Phillip Hammond announced at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that the annual apprenticeship levy transfer facility will rise from 10 to 25 per cent.
Mr Hammond also said that he would consult with businesses about further changes to the levy from 2020, following the slow take up and employer criticisms.
He also announced that the government’s recent productivity review, to which the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) contributed, found a management skills challenge in the UK’s small business community.
In order to address this, £20 million will be invested in networks to enable small businesses to learn from each other and from world leading firms. Over 100 mentors from companies, such as GSK, Amazon, KPMG and Siemens, have already signed up to offer their management expertise.
A further £11 million will pay for a management-skills training programme, anticipated to help 2,000 businesses in its first year, with an ambition to train 10,000 people a year by 2025.
Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of the GBCC, said: “We have repeatedly called on stakeholders to increase the flexibility of the apprenticeship levy. The measures announced today, particularly around increasing levy transfers, are a positive indication that the voice of the business community is being heard.
“It is our hope that by allowing large businesses to transfer up to 25 per cent of unused levy funds –-as opposed to 10 per cent currently – more SMEs will be able to access high quality apprenticeships and close persistent skills gaps, which are particularly prevalent in parts of the West Midlands.
“However, as the government and the West Midlands Combined Authority work towards targets of higher apprenticeship-starts, it is crucial that quality is prioritised over quantity, and that all communities feel equipped to access such opportunities.”
On the outcomes of the productivity review, Mr Faulkner said: “The GBCC contributed a detailed response to the government’s productivity review earlier this year. This response was based on data from our annual Growth Through People campaign which, since its launch in 2017, has similarly aimed to boost productivity through improving leadership and management skills.
“Growth Through People has been a hugely successful campaign, with over 450 delegates from businesses across Greater Birmingham attending 17 events earlier this year and an ‘excellent’ net promoter score of 64.
“In 2019 the campaign is set to be bigger and better, with a significant increase in the bespoke digital content from business leaders and experts accompanying the free events series.
“We very much welcome the government to join us at the 2019 Growth Through People campaign, beginning in February next year, and experience its impact first-hand.”
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