With over £1million worth of apprenticeship levy pledged through an OxLEP programme, small businesses in Oxfordshire can now grow their organisation’s workforce more easily, but could be losing out on this vital apprenticeship investment.
As this month, young people from across Oxfordshire collect exam results, OxLEP are calling out to the county’s small business community to encourage them to secure crucial funding that enables apprenticeship creation within their organisation.
With teenagers and young adults continuing to gain a greater understanding of apprenticeships, matched with a rising number of small businesses aware of how they can drive forward a company’s growth ambition, OxLEP Skills are – throughout this exam results season, starting today with A-Levels – calling upon small businesses to engage with one of its major programmes, that could lead to access to critical apprenticeship funding.
OxLEP Skills’ Social Contract programme sees the organisation work with large businesses subject to the apprenticeship levy – a 0.5% compulsory charge for companies who have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million – encouraging them to pledge their unused levy spend, which can subsequently be used to support small businesses to create their own apprenticeship openings.
To-date, OxLEP Skills have secured over £1million worth of pledged apprenticeship levy from applicable levy-paying Oxfordshire businesses. This figure is continuing to rise, with more, large Oxfordshire-based companies engaging with the programme and understanding the importance of retaining funding for the county through pledges, which would otherwise be lost to Oxfordshire and returned to HM Treasury.
OxLEP Skills hopes that even more small businesses in the county – driven by a willingness to grow their workforce through talented young people, fresh from exam success within schools or universities – will reach out to them and make full-use of levy funding, pledged to the Social Contract programme.
OxLEP Skills believes it is a ‘win-win’ situation for both business and young person alike.
The associated funding can support a small business to grow, boosting the skills, creativity and capabilities in respective workforces through an apprentice, or team of apprentices.
Levy pledges ultimately mean a young person can, in-turn, discover new career prospects via apprenticeship programmes.
Sally Andreou – Skills Hub Manager at OxLEP – said: “We are delighted to have already managed to secure – and ultimately, retain – significant levels of apprenticeship levy funding for Oxfordshire.
“Many large businesses in the county who are subject to the levy have not only been generous enough to pledge their spend to our Social Contract programme, but they are ultimately seeing the bigger picture and the importance of ensuring that apprenticeship programmes can be delivered in Oxfordshire and more specifically, by Oxfordshire’s small businesses.
“With this in mind – as more young people seek career opportunities following the latest round of exam results – we are extremely keen to hear from small businesses who are looking to, or ready to, grow their workforce and can make use of the levy funding we have secured.
“We simply do not want organisations with that ambition and desire to create apprenticeship openings to miss out.”
With the number of apprenticeship starts continuing to rise in Oxfordshire – up an estimated 11% between 2020/21 and 2021/22 – it is hoped more small businesses will take note and build their growth plans around apprenticeship programmes.
Sally added: “Already, we have seen levy pledges find their way into small businesses operating across a variety of sectors, including healthcare, hospitality and many technology-focused companies.
“With more, talented young people starting to enter the jobs market – not just following the completion of GCSEs and A-Levels, but also those fresh out of university this summer – small businesses genuinely have access to some brilliant young people, ready to enter a variety of industries through apprenticeships.
"They just need more apprenticeship openings, particularly within SMEs, to emerge and this is where we believe our Social Contract programme can play a major role.”
Funding for the Social Contract programme was secured last year by OxLEP from the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund, via Oxfordshire County Council.
If you an Oxfordshire business looking to access funding for apprenticeships via OxLEP Skills’ Social Contract programme, contact the OxLEP Skills team.