Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First

@London_First and North West Business Leadership Team (@NWBLT) unveil seven-point plan to save apprenticeship system including increased flexibility in the use of Levy funds to financial relief for Levy-funded apprenticeships. Business groups and Mayors of London, Manchester, and Liverpool all back the seven-point-plan, and calls for new Back to Work fund to avoid a lost generation of apprentices.

Business groups London First and the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) have today (Friday) joined forces to publish a seven-point-plan to urge the Government to take immediate steps to support the apprenticeship system, or risk a lost cohort of young people. This would also undo years of hard work by businesses, training providers and governments to build the scale and profile of the UK’s apprenticeship programme.

It comes as they warn that apprenticeship starts are expected to drop by 50% this September amid concerns that the Government’s furlough scheme is masking future lay-offs and fears of rising youth unemployment. Apprenticeships are vital in providing clear long-term paths to skilled employment, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, The Sutton Trust has reported that just 39% of apprenticeships are continuing as normal.

Together the business groups are calling on the Government to take action to maintain the sustainability of the apprenticeship training private sector, and ensure businesses are encouraged to continue to employ apprentices,

Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, said:

“Our young people are facing the most challenging jobs market ever, with the economic fall out of the pandemic expected to hit the under 25s disproportionately hard.

“Tackling the scourge of youth unemployment will require the Government to do all it can to support the apprenticeship system. That includes introducing a new Back to Work fund to encourage employers to take on apprentices and making the apprenticeship levy more flexible.

“Businesses – north and south – are united in their support of apprenticeships, and are committed to doing everything possible to give the next generation the opportunity to reach their full potential. But we can’t do it alone. We urge the Government to act now or it risks creating a lost generation of apprenticeships.”

To support a strong apprenticeship system now, and over the next period of uncertainty, the business groups urge the Government to:

  1. Introduce a long-term ‘Back to Work’ fund to help businesses take on apprenticeships, and minimising the costs of apprenticeships to firms, guaranteed for a minimum of three years, which would include the removal of the ‘co-investment’ fee that non-levy paying employers are currently having to find towards to the training of their apprentice.
  2. Provide funding relief fairly for all apprenticeships, so that Apprenticeship Training Providers (ATPs) can be funded where training has been paused.
  3. Support providers and businesses to continue to offer apprenticeships safely, with clear guidance on how to operate safely and suspending face-to-face requirements, so that apprenticeships are not forced to fail through being unable to complete in-person training.
  4. Give businesses greater flexibility in how they use Levy funds, by making it easier to transfer funds to other firms via a single digital transaction, pausing payments and extending the date that they can be used where businesses are unable to return to normal activity.
  5. Improve communications channels between businesses and the apprenticeship system, with a one-stop-shop for employers to access information and support.
  6. Work with SMEs to trial innovative approaches that boost demand, such as shared apprentices.
  7. Promote apprenticeships to young people and their families, emphasise the role of them in the economic recovery, and highlight the long-term opportunities they provide.

As part of this Back to Work Fund, we propose that the Government permits SMEs to use a portion of the levy funding transferred to them by large employers to cover the salary costs of apprentices. This would help minimise costs for both SME employers and Government and it could be achieved via a simple – maybe short term – rule change. We suggest piloting this proposal in Manchester and London. For example, through utilising Manchester Combined Authority’s levy transfer fund of around £4m that is currently not being drawn down due to uncertainty and lack of apprentice starts.

Sandy Lindsay 100x100Sandy Lindsay MBE, Skills Lead and Vice Chair, North West Business Leadership Team, said:

“This is not a time for bureaucracy and delay; this is a time for swift action, innovation and open dialogue between Government and business.

"We are calling on Government to work with us to look at ways to free up finance that can be used to save the jobs of thousands of young people, as well as the skills that will be needed by businesses into the future.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, added:

“Young people must be at the heart of our economic recovery as we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis.  We need urgent action to protect and guarantee apprenticeships so we don’t risk a lost generation.

“Apprenticeships have a vital role in developing a young person’s skills and future career paths.  Now more than ever we need to ensure that the opportunities are there for young people to get the start on the career ladder that they deserve.  In Greater Manchester we’ve set up our own careers and apprenticeship service for young people, GMACS, to support them in planning for their future, but we also need action at a national level.

“I wholeheartedly welcome this plan from the North West Business Leadership Team and London First.  The message from business and political leaders, both North and South, is clear – it is now time for Ministers to act.”

sadiq khan 100x100Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, added:

“Apprenticeships have a vital role in the capital’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis by providing important opportunities for Londoners and ensuring the city’s businesses have access to the skills they need.

“I’m urging Government to adopt these seven measures to incentivise and support businesses to create apprenticeships, particularly for young Londoners and those who are out of work who have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19. I’ve called on ministers to give me the powers and funding to establish a London Apprenticeship Service, building on the business support I’ve provided through the London Progression Collaboration.

“We must do all we can to create the opportunities young and economically vulnerable Londoners need now more than ever.”

Steve Rotherham, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, added:

“Young people are one of the groups most affected by this pandemic and will have to live longest with its consequences.  It is vital that we put measures in place that specifically support the generation of young people who are about to enter the world of work.

“Apprenticeships have to be at the heart of the effort to enable young people to develop the skills they need to thrive in a post-COVID economy.  That’s why in the Liverpool City Region we developed Be-More, the UK’s first UCAS-style apprenticeship portal to enable prospective apprentices to find the information they need in one place.

“But we also need action at a central government level.  I’ve long advocated for greater flexibility in the use of the Apprenticeship Levy and for government to properly support this vital route to skilled employment.  I wholeheartedly support this plan’s recommendations and call upon the government to act now.”

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

National Education Group has a new avatar. yesterday

To what extent are parents aware and responsible
for correcting their children's behaviour in this

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page