Midlands organisations back apprenticeship levy

Organisations investing in training to support business growth across the West Midlands have defended a Government-run apprenticeship scheme.

Senior partners at law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, which has offices in Wolverhampton Shropshire and other parts of the West Midlands, have been using the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy since 2017 to grow its core staff across legal and non-legal positions.

Charlotte Clode, Training Partner for the firm, said it had and continues to add tremendous value to the firm’s ambitious plans for growth.

The comments come after claims by the Managing Partners Forum (MPF) that the scheme is unfavoured by many organisations.

According to MPF, 42 per cent of professional services firms said they had yet to receive anything back from paying the levy, which was introduced by the Government to drive up the number of apprenticeships and fund the recruitment of skilled young people.

A further 60 per cent of firms surveyed, said the levy had complicated learning and development activities.

However, Charlotte said the firm’s experience of the scheme had been nothing but positive.

It works with Midlands provider In-Comm Training to provide a range of apprenticeship opportunities for young people across its offices in Wolverhampton, Redditch and Birmingham Shrewsbury, Telford, Bridgnorth and Church Stretton..

She said: “We’ve embraced the Apprenticeship Levy by employing both legal and non-legal apprentices.

“We have apprentices working in IT, marketing, finance, compliance and our continuous improvement team – all recruited and supported in their development by In-Comm.

“Whilst we understand the issues some businesses may have faced with the levy, we have decided to embrace apprenticeships and utilise the levy monies to grow our own staff across a number of positions.

“All of our apprentices have been a credit to the firm and fitted in well with existing team members, adding real value to the firm from the moment they began.”

In-Comm Training, which operates three academies in Aldridge, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury, believes that whilst there are complexities surrounding the levy, there are still opportunities – however businesses have to come forward to ensure that standards reflect their actual training requirements.

Managing Director Gareth Jones explained: “Firms need to get on board to drive the National Apprenticeship Standards so that they are developed to meet current and future skills/job needs.

“Organisational needs analysis can help with this and identify opportunities where companies can use their levy spend to meet demand for more leadership and management training or even Degree Apprenticeships.”

He continued: “FBC Manby Bowdler is a great example of how employers can get more involved. Its innovative and proactive approach has seen it become a vocal sounding board for skills development in the West Midlands and, as a result, it has enjoyed a number of operational benefits from investing in apprenticeships.

“This includes engaging with Business Improvement Practitioner Apprenticeships and introducing six sigma techniques to help strip out waste from processes, improve the customer experience and adding profit straight to the bottom line.”

The annual In-Comm Training Barometer, which is designed to test the business world’s appetite for training, revealed that 83% of firms are still committed to taking on the next generation of workers despite issues around the UK leaving the EU.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of companies have already put aside budget to recruit apprentices over the next twelve months, with a surprising number of businesses (60%) stating they feel the Apprenticeship Levy is working.

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