Pictured: OxLEP Skills Apprenticeship Advisor Leah Bryan (4th from right) is pictured with Keith Fisher, Apprentice Manager at Jacobs Douwe Egberts UK, Martin Youngjohns, Operational Training Manager at Jacobs Douwe Egberts UK, their apprentice team and Olivia Lane-Knott (far left) from Oxford North, sponsor of the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards 2022 Apprenticeship Employer of the Year Award (250+ employees).
The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership Skills team (OxLEP Skills) has today (Thursday 13 October) announced that over £163k has been pledged in Levy transfers since the launch of its new 'Social Contract' programme – launched at the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards in May – with organisations such as JDE Banbury and the University of Oxford pledging their unused funds to support the retention of skills within the county.
The Social Contract is a new £1.7m programme of activity that aims to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and wellbeing for individuals, local communites and businesses. The programme aims to support those experiencing unemployment and barriers to employment, education and training, and provide support to Oxfordshire's key business sectors, experiencing skills and labour shortages.
Through the new programme, OxLEP Skills are working to support Apprenticeship Levy-paying businesses in Oxfordshire to ‘Grow Your Own’ talent within the county and unlock their 25% unused Levy funds, with a series of expert ‘Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Advisors’ on hand to offer support and free impartial advice.
Launched back in May, a core ambition of the Social Contract programme is to ensure that Apprenticeship Levy funds in Oxfordshire remain in the county, by supporting Levy-paying businesses to pledge their unused funds to smaller businesses who could be looking to take on their first apprentice or grow their apprenticeship scheme.
JDE Banbury, who produce household coffee favourites Kenco, L'OR and Tassimo are leading the way as trailblazers across the programme, having pledged over £50,000 in unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds to support local organisations. Nearby to their Banbury coffee factory this pledge will support apprenticeship training for key roles including - on this occasion - the NHS and primary education.
So far, JDE Banbury pledged funds are earmarked to support apprenticeship training for a Sports Coach Apprentice at a local primary school and an Apprentice Healthcare Assistant at a GP surgery in Kidlington. Any funds remaining will be advertised on the government’s Apprenticeship Levy pledge website, where organisations can apply for a share.
Another trailblazer in the programme – the University of Oxford have also pledged their unused Levy funds to support skills within the county – which have since been utilised to create the Local Enterprise Partnership’s very own communications apprenticeship role, supporting a former ‘Kickstart’ employee to take the next step in their career.
Other local pledges are also being used to support a further Healthcare Assistant in another local surgery.
As part of the Social Contract programme, OxLEP Skills and OxLEP Business have also teamed up to deliver the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Grant Scheme, with support in the range of £1,000 to £1,500 – in certain circumstances also up to £3,000 – which businesses can apply for on behalf of an apprentice who is experiencing barriers to either starting or completing their apprenticeship. Funding for example, can be used on travel costs and Ofsted-registered childcare.
The Social Contract programme also aims to remove barriers to employment for individuals who may be considered furthest from employment, as well as supporting young people who have experienced education disturbance or unemployment as a result of the pandemic, and those over the age of 50 in Oxfordshire who may be affected by labour market challenges. A core ambition of the programme is also to improve social mobility for minority ethnic communities in Oxfordshire.
Sally Andreou – Skills Hub Manager at OxLEP – said: "Our new Social Contract Programme aims to support the retention of talent within Oxfordshire, helping businesses and individuals to remove barriers to employment here in the county.
"We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of the programme and are delighted at the amount of Levy funds that have already been pledged as a result of the Social Contract – however there are still around 220 businesses in Oxfordshire that pay the Apprenticeship Levy, who might not be currently utilising it. Underused Levy funds are returned to the Treasury if not used within two years and may then be of no benefit to Oxfordshire’s communities and economy. Businesses can pledge 25% of their unused Levy to other businesses.
"We want to keep Levy funds in Oxfordshire, so we can grow vital skills, create apprenticeships for local people, so they can earn while they learn and help businesses develop their talent pipeline. To make the whole process as easy and as simple as possible for a business to transfer their Levy, we have two ‘Apprenticeship Advisors’ who can offer their time totally free of charge.
"Retaining Levy funds locally will support vital skills growth across Oxfordshire and help employers develop talent pipelines and retain key skills within the county, utilising funds that would otherwise be returned to the Treasury."
"We would urge all businesses who want to make a difference and to support smaller business and jobseekers looking for an apprenticeship through the Social Contract programme to get in touch."
Rob Williams, Plant Director, Banbury UK, Jacobs Douwe Egberts – said: “We’re delighted to be able to provide some of our unspent Apprenticeship Levy to support local organisations in Oxfordshire. We’re incredibly proud of our apprenticeship programme at the Banbury coffee factory and look forward to hearing how other businesses will be able to reap the benefits of developing their talent pipeline.”
Helen Johnson – Senior Appointments and Apprenticeships Manager at the University of Oxford – said: “We are delighted to be supporting OxLEP in their new Social Contract Programme and are equally supportive of keeping talent in Oxfordshire and upskilling talent.
“At the University we are committed to transferring the full 25% of levy annually to support other organisations to allow them to recruit new talent through apprenticeships or upskill their existing staff.
“As the Chair of the Thames Valley Apprenticeship Network I hope the other LEPs will looking into creating a similar programme to wider the retention of talent. This is a really exciting project, and we look forward to seeing how things progress.”
Join OxLEP Skills’ mission to ‘Grow Your Own’ talent here in Oxfordshire, while benefiting from free and impartial support and advice for your organisation through our Social Contract Programme.