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Boris boosts apprenticeships drive with £14m fund for SMEs

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The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has announced a £14m fund for small and medium sized-businesses to offer an extra incentive to take on an apprentice in 2015. From the New Year this will mean the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers will double, helping the Mayor’s continued drive to boost apprentice numbers in London.

Starting on 1 January 2015 London companies will be able to take advantage of the enhanced Apprentice Grant for Employers (AGE) which will rise from the current limit of £1500 to £3000. The funding pot for small and medium-sized businesses, which was secured by the London Enterprise Panel through its Growth Deal with Government, will allow employers to apply for £3,000 per apprentice they employ. The announcement follows a trial project funded by the London Enterprise Panel last year that saw overwhelming demand for the increased grant in London. It is estimated that the funding boost could help to create thousands of new apprenticeship places in London. The news comes as the most recent employment statistics show that, in the year to September 2014, private sector employment was up by 5.4 per cent  in the capital, compared with 3.6 per cent in the UK as a whole.

In London there are more than 900,000 private sector small and medium-sized businesses with a combined turnover of over £460 billion. The Mayor believes that these companies are central to the continued strength of the capital’s economy and to ensuring that young Londoners in search of work are helped on to the career ladder. The investment forms part of a wider package of funding provided by the Mayor and the London Enterprise Panel to help further increase the number of apprentices in the capital. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “More than 20,000 workplaces in the capital are already benefiting from having apprentices in their workforce. A large proportion of these are small and medium-sized businesses but we want to help even more of these companies take on even more apprentices. I urge company bosses from all corners of the capital to take up this cash incentive and help young Londoners in 2015 get a foot on the ladder to success.”

The decision to increase the funding from £1,500 follows a three month trial period offering the enhanced £3,000 grant. During the trial the number of AGE-supported apprentices hired in London increased by 25 per cent, from 1,765 to 2,222. Unprecedented high demand for funding saw it fully allocated within three months. Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “It’s excellent news that the Greater London Authority is providing extra support for small businesses in London to take on apprentices. Apprentices offer businesses of all sizes the chance to increase their talent pool and get the skills they need grow. Over 100,000 apprenticeships across the country have already been supported through the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, and it’s good to see that the GLA are building on this successful model to grow apprenticeships further in the capital’s thriving small businesses.”

 Steve Warwick, London Regional Chair, Federation of Small Businesses,said: “The Federation of Small Businesses are delighted that the Mayor has committed to working with the LondonLocal Enterprise Panel to reintroduce the uplift of the Grant [for taking on an apprentice] from £1,500 to £3,000 for SME’s.  FSB research shows that London is one of the costliest capital cities to do business in, particularly in terms of high employment costs. We have long argued that the Grant for London businesses should be higher than other parts of the country and this is welcome.  It is important that the funding goes to businesses that need the incentive the most and not larger businesses that would have invested in apprentices anyway.”

In his last election manifesto the Mayor committed to increasing the number of apprenticeship opportunities in London as part of his Apprenticeships Campaign. As well as agreeing with government to double the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, the Mayor has developed an Employer-Led Apprenticeship Programme to help connect businesses and providers to generate as many apprenticeship starts in London as possible. He has negotiated a boost in Higher Apprenticeship Funding for London over the next two years and supports the London Work-Based Learning Alliance’s Apprenticeship Information Ambassador Network to encourage apprenticeships in schools. So far the Mayor’s campaign with the National Apprenticeship Service has seen the creation of more than 170,000 apprenticeships in the capital since 2010. To apply and for support and guidance, London based businesses are advised to go to

www.apprenticeships.org.uk/

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