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Businesses should grab opportunities presented by Apprenticeship Levy changes with both hands

WSP | Parons Brinckerhoff

The opportunities the changes to the Apprenticeship Levy will bring for businesses are an exciting development, and something we enthused about at the recent event on the topic held by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. We shared our insights and thoughts with local businesses ahead of the changes - which will be introduced to the Apprenticeship Levy by the Department for Education (DfE) this April.

I strongly believe these changes by the DfE are great news for businesses of all sizes, and to young people wanting an alternative to the traditional academic route into their chosen careers. This is particularly apt for those who are keen to gain higher education qualifications, but are restricted by the rising cost of tuition.

A scheme that enables businesses to take on and train apprentices is not only valuable to businesses, but in sectors where skills shortages prevail, they are beneficial for the whole industry. Having more skilled professionals in circulation is great for British business. Rising tuition fees are putting young people off pursuing certain careers that require higher education, which isn’t good for the economy or the future of industry in the UK. This scheme will result in many more businesses taking on many more apprentices, and is attractive to those young learners who want to learn on the job as well as gain the relevant qualifications.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is dedicated to helping to address the skills shortage in engineering. We’ve taken on five apprentices in the last year at our Queen’s Drive-based consultancy, as part of our national initiative to doubling the apprenticeship intake across our UK offices. Mitchell Dixon is one of these who joined us around six months ago, having gained an apprenticeship to work in our building services division. Mitchell, along with another apprentice, Marcel Richards, attended the recent Birmingham Chamber of Commerce event to provide an insight to businesses on how beneficial apprenticeships are from an apprentice’s perspective.

Mitchell and Marcel were keen to get into the workplace and felt that it would give them a better knowledge base than an educational institution alone. Many career options require experience, so spending years in education gives you the right qualifications but none of the required experience, making securing a job quite challenging. The prospect of gaining that all important experience and earning money at the same time was attractive to Mitchell and Marcel, who hope to become qualified Engineers.

The presentation at the event was well-received and the signs from businesses in attendance were encouraging. It was particularly interesting to see that businesses of all sizes and from all sectors face similar challenges when it comes to apprentices.

It’s a win-win all round and is a solution that will become much more commonplace in the future, as young people look for alternative routes into employment and employers look to expand their businesses with home-grown and nurtured talent.

The levy comes into effect in April 2017, and any apprentices taken on from 1st  May 2017 will be subject to the new rules. Full details about the changes can be found at Gov.uk.

Paul Thomas is a director at professional services consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, which has been involved in some of the most significant redevelopments in Birmingham, including Snowhill 3, the Bullring and the £350m redevelopment scheme for Birmingham New Street Station. It is one of the world's leading engineering and professional services consulting firms, and has 1,000 people across the Midlands region in Birmingham and Coventry, and the recently acquired Mouchel in Sutton Coldfield.