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For those in the skills world there is no doubt that 2016 is the year of the apprenticeship, with the business voice at the heart of driving demand.

With announcements of a business levy in the autumn spending review and the Government’s vision to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships by 2020 launched in December, the role of LEPs is crucial using the networks, partnerships and relationships they have developed to support apprenticeship growth.

After an in-depth look at apprenticeships in our final Employment and Skills board of 2015 our apprenticeship growth plan is well on the way to being in place to help inform our partners such as the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), the DWP and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) understand how we will contribute to the national plan.

It will also be the focus of today’s Skills Network meeting, in which we bring together key agencies, stakeholders and delivery partners that will provide leadership to the employment and skills agenda in the Humber and share and consult on information and plans.

Apprenticeships of all levels are an essential part of our strategy to meet the skills needs of the developing renewables sector and related sectors such as ports and logistics and manufacturing. An increased level of technical and higher level skills in the Humber is essential to attract investment. which is why apprenticeship growth has always been a significant driver of our Employment and Skills Strategy and implementation plan.

In 2015 we piloted the Humber Apprenticeship Support Service which has put us on a good footing for the work ahead. The programme was aimed at reducing the barriers faced by small to medium enterprises when employing apprentices by helping with access to information and providing impartial guidance and support. For the Humber this is essential as the largest proportion on apprenticeships are delivered by SME’s – a very different profile from the national picture.

The Apprenticeship Support Team, a central manager with a broker on either side of the Humber, has engaged with 370 businesses in just over a year and exceeded its targets by supporting the creation of 157 apprenticeships in the region. We are looking to replicate good practice from the pilot as part of a programme supported by European funds in spring 2016.

hanges announced in the government’s spending review and as part of their 2020 vision include how businesses access and pay for apprenticeships. This includes a levy on businesses offset by an allowance which means the levy will only be paid on any pay bill in excess of £3m, and an online portal to post vacancies, with digital credits, in aim to cut through red tape, although the precise process details are still unclear.

There will also be changes to the quality and types of apprenticeship as well as quantity. For example, further development of apprenticeships which provide training in a professional or technical route including competencies on English and Maths, while businesses, professional bodies and universities are involved in developing higher and degree apprenticeships that from this year will be posted on UCAS.

Part of the government’s plans are to put the quality management of apprenticeships firmly in the hand of employers . In the Humber we want to be part of this opportunity and want to take a leadership role where appropriate.

With seven strands of activity in our Apprenticeship Growth Plan including implementing reforms, public sector, large employer engagement, accelerated higher and degree apprenticeships, support smaller businesses, communications and marketing, and routes into apprenticeships, we have a focussed approach to achieve what we need to in partnership.

These strands are further supported by activities within in our employment and skills implementation plan where we have already had success with the routes into apprenticeships.

Part of this solution is our drive to improve the quality, accessibility and dissemination of labour market information and careers education, information advice and guidance (CEIAG). We have created a careers hub including a careers portal ‘Bridging the Gap’, developed in partnership by the four local authorities, which carries Humber vacancies and supporting careers information such as videos focussing on careers in ‘STEM’ subjects (Science, technology, Engineering and Maths) and the local career achievements of graduates who have studied them.

And we have developed the Humber ‘Gold Standard’ quality mark for excellence, working with employers, partners and national quality organisations on CEIAG . These projects are designed to equip local people to make informed career choices and have been put together in collaboration with business leaders and education and training providers.

We also worked in partnership with the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) on supporting employers to create the right traineeships to fill a skills gap – a route into apprenticeships for those people interested in a STEM related career.

Our work on the employer demand side includes our Skills Pledge which offers support to businesses who pledge one of six ways to investing in skills, including apprenticeships, was awarded the President’s Award in 2015 by NIACE, the first time it had ever been awarded to a region.

So if your business or organisation would like information, impartial advice or support with apprenticeships, you can get in touch with our skills team on (01482) 485260.

Support in the Humber:

The LEP and its partners have supported apprenticeships:
565 via City Deal
157 via HASS
130+ via Skills pledge*

The Humber LEP Skills Pledge invites businesses to sign up to the following six individual pledges:
• Invest in increasing the skills of your workforce
• Mentor a budding entrepreneur
• Offer a work placement to a young person or adult
• Employ a graduate
• Offer an apprenticeship or a traineeship
• Support the development of employability skills

*More than 320 businesses have pledged with more than 130 of those pledging to offer an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Mike Parker OBE
Mike Parker OBE

Mike has more than 30 years experience as a senior manager in industry, principally in seafood and food processing. A business graduate from the University of Bath, with his expertise in general management has included chair and managing director positions in a number of companies, including some of the largest in their sectors in Europe. This includes being the former deputy CEO of the Findus Group with expertise in mergers & acquisitions, strategic planning, and public affairs. In addition to his work as director of Lodestone a communications company, Mike currently has interests in publishing, is a Non Executive Director of Marine Harvest ASA, the world’s largest salmon farming company, and Chair of Governors at the Grimsby Institute further education college. Additional Humber LEP role: Chair of the Employment and Skills Board