Lee Tennant, Head of Business Partnerships at Newcastle College.
Newcastle College

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Take advantage of apprenticeship incentive extensions with Newcastle College

Lee Tennant, Head of Business Partnerships at Newcastle College, explains what the extension of apprenticeship funding means for North East business.

Six months ago, I spoke to BDaily about why there had never been a better time for North East businesses to recruit highly skilled apprentices. I was a year into my role as Head of Business Partnerships and we were all six months into a pandemic.

I talked about the unique skills that apprentices can bring to businesses and why they were best placed to help businesses recover, rebuild and grow. I also touched on the government’s focus on skills and training and the incentives that had been put in place for employers hiring new apprentices.

At that time, I was telling the truth – there never had been a better time. But six months later as we start to see a future beyond Covid-19 become a reality, there is no doubt that now is an even better time, for three big reasons.

The first is that those incentives announced last summer by the Chancellor were originally supposed to end in January. Now, they have not only been extended for the second (and likely last) time, but they’ve been increased too. While the original incentive offered up to £3,000 for new apprentices hired under the age of 24, businesses can now receive this for all new apprentices regardless of age. Additionally, if they are 16-18 or 16-24 with an EHCP, businesses are entitled to an additional £1000.

That ‘all age’ change is an important one, because it’s important that employers realise they can hire people of all ages through an apprenticeship, and benefit from a range of skills and experience. It’s a common misconception that apprentices are all fresh-faced school leavers. Many of them are – and young apprentices bring many benefits to businesses, including fresh perspectives and insights. But in truth, apprentices can be of absolutely any age, offering older and more experienced people the opportunity to retrain and reskill in new careers and new sectors. That’s an absolutely crucial thing to offer people, particularly in the midst of an uncertain jobs market.

Secondly, and I truly hope I’m not speaking too soon, but we really do appear to be on the cusp of a permanent reopening of our economy. That brings an end to uncertainty and a much more stable future for businesses and employers – meaning now is the time to invest into the workforce that will drive your business forward through this next stage of recovery.

The Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, recently spoke at an awards ceremony where he stated that he believes the UK economy is on course for a quick recovery as the restrictions ease, saying “I do think more than likely than not we are set for a rapid-fire recovery. That is coming and I think that is coming soon.”

If we are to have faith in anyone’s opinion when it comes to our country’s financial future, surely it should be his? He is not alone in that optimism. I am seeing more and more of it first-hand as I engage with our employer partners. Conversations are less about surviving this period and more around workforce development and planning ahead, whilst a healthy number are fast tracking plans for when they’re able to fully reopen. It’s a fantastic feeling to see the businesses we work with daily looking towards the future.

There have been many U-turns on decisions and policies over the past twelve months, but one thing the government has remained consistent and steadfast on is its skills-led approach to our country’s recovery. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have said time and time again throughout this crisis that apprentices are at the heart of the recovery plan and the FE Skills for Jobs White Paper released in January confirmed this once again. There is no doubt that investing in dynamic, diverse and innovative talent, who can bring fresh ideas and new ways of working, is the boost that every business needs right now.

Onto my final reason. Here at Newcastle College, our work hasn’t been paused over the last year, in fact it’s kept growing and we have even more exciting developments to come. We are doing all we can to support our business partners throughout this period and moving forwards.

Our Director of Apprenticeships Lynsey Whitehead spoke recently with BDaily about our investment in our newly launched Apprenticeship Hub and Synergy Hub – providing businesses across the North East and Cumbria with a one stop shop for all of their workforce development and entrepreneurial needs. It is just the first step in a much bigger plan to build a wider wraparound service for employers.

We have continued to develop an ever-growing pipeline of talent, already assessed as ‘work-ready’ and ready for the right apprenticeship opportunity. We still offer a free, bespoke free recruitment service, available to support with onboarding of apprentices. It all drives our mission of finding the right apprentice for the right business; matching skills and abilities and dynamics to ensure apprentices enhance business efficiency and effectiveness.

So there really has never been a better time than now to take on an apprentice with the help of Newcastle College. Plus, with government incentives ending in less than six months, what are you waiting for?

Website: Newcastle College

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Newcastle College .

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