Leader of Kent County Council (KCC), Paul Carter CBE, has used National Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) to launch a major new campaign to encourage Kent employers to double the number of apprentices in Kent.
Speaking to business leaders at a “Made in Kent” launch event held at the Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham today (Tuesday), Paul Carter called on Kent’s employers to make the most of the significant changes being introduced on the 6 April 2017 to the government’s apprenticeship programme.
Mr Carter also offered businesses KCC’s assistance as they consider the implications and opportunities of the changes, announcing a new Advice Service for all Kent employers, to be delivered in partnership with leading apprenticeship training provider MiddletonMurray.
Paul Carter said:“The Made in Kent campaign is KCC’s way of celebrating the success of apprentices across the County and promoting the considerable benefits they bring to employers large and small.
“For the first time businesses can commission their own training, hire apprentices of any age, upskill their existing workforce and access training funding all through the apprenticeship programme.
“These changes make the scheme even more compelling than before, and on that basis, our ambition is to double the number of apprentices in Kent by 2019/20.
“I believe that the expanded apprenticeship programme is a fantastic opportunity for all Kent businesses and employees.
“It will facilitate considerable new investment in staff training and development, and do much to reduce the skills gap many businesses regularly report.
“KCC is committed to doing all we can to ensure that as many apprentices as possible continue to be ‘Made in Kent’ and that the maximum amount of training funds available through the Apprenticeship Levy is spent in Kent, for the benefit of local businesses and people.
“Please leave today inspired about the potential of apprenticeships; make use of our dedicated advice line if you need help to understand the Levy; and don’t be afraid to share your plans for the future.”
Angela Middleton, CEO of MiddletonMurray, spoke of how the new Levy would work and the opportunities available as a result of new funding available.
She said: “MiddletonMurray have been working to make it easy for businesses in Kent to recruit, train and employ apprentices for many years and we are delighted to be supporting Kent County Council on this exciting new project.
“MiddletonMurray are on hand to help any employer who is yet to work out how to use Levy funding and we will use our considerable experience to assist anyone using the KCC advice line to find the right solution to meet their business needs.
“No business should look at the Apprenticeship Levy as ‘just another tax’. The money paid remains yours to use, and from our experience all businesses can benefit from the wide range of high quality, work relevant apprenticeship training opportunities now available.
“However, I would warn that employers need to take action now. Once the Levy comes in, funds raised are available on a use it or lose it basis, and for many employers it will take a little time to get the right arrangements in place.”
Jonathan Neame, Chief Executive of Shepherd Neame, who hosted the event said: “Like all businesses, we recognise the benefits apprenticeships can bring to the workplace.
“However, big initiatives like the Levy can be daunting to organisations, in terms of cost and complexity, so it’s great to have support from KCC and MiddletonMurray in implementing these changes.”
Two apprentices spoke about their experiences at the event. Dover-based Christopher North, a Business Administration Apprentice at The Research Network said: “Becoming an apprentice offered me a great way to learn and earn. I didn’t want to go to uni, but being an apprentice means I can still get qualifications and a good job, without the student debt.”
Ellen-Paige Habbershaw, an apprentice at Patrick Carnell Contractors in Dover, said: “I’m very proud to be ‘Made in Kent’. I hope all employers give others opportunities like the one I’ve had, as my apprenticeship has started me on a brilliant career path.”