Plans to expand apprenticeship opportunities boosted by launch of Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service

GREATER Manchester is to lead the way in opening up apprenticeship opportunities for many more local people with the launch of the Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service, an industry-leading service to link the city-region’s growing businesses with a skilled workforce and reversing the recent decline in apprenticeship starts.

The service, delivered by The Growth Company, is the only one of its kind in the country, enabling large employers with apprenticeship levy underspend to match with smaller business looking to hire apprentices but short of the necessary capital.

The online portal will go live on Monday 5 August, with major organisations able to register and connect with smaller employers looking for funding, while smaller employers can pitch their apprenticeship opportunities online looking for a match to cover the costs of training an apprentice.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

“I want Greater Manchester to lead the way in apprenticeship employment, providing quality opportunities for learning and development. More of our employers than ever before will see the contribution that high quality, sustainable apprenticeships can make to their business and their workforce.

“The Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service will mean employers can be confident that any unspent levy funds will stay within Greater Manchester – giving us maximum value for money – and support the creation and development of more apprenticeships than they are able to employ themselves.

“Every person growing up, living or working in our city-region should have a chance to break into the industry of their choice and gain the confidence and crucially the valuable skills and experience that are the product of completing a successful apprenticeship. We are on the side of aspirational young people – for example, Our Pass, the new card giving Greater Manchester’s 16 to 18-year-olds the freedom to travel, work and learn, will open up a raft of opportunities right across our city-region.”

In line with the national trend, the number of people starting apprenticeships in Greater Manchester has gone down in recent years, dropping from a peak of over 30,000 in 2016 to 22,500 in 2018, largely as a result of reforms to the system at a national level. The city-region is adopting the Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service as part of a drive to support employers to create increased opportunities.

Current apprenticeship funding rules allow levy paying organisations to transfer up to 25% of their funds to another organisation, which may itself be non-levy paying or might have already spent all its own levy funding, to cover the cost of training an apprentice.

The Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service will be operated by the Growth Company having been commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

Cllr Sean Fielding, GMCA lead on Education, Skills, Work and Apprenticeships, added: 

“Apprenticeships can give everyone the chance to start, develop their career, as well as supporting businesses to develop and grow by creating a skilled workforce that meets their needs. The bold new Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service showcases our city-region as a place doing things differently, with employers working in tandem to ensure apprenticeship opportunities are made available and are of the highest quality.”

Mark Hughes, Chief Executive of The Growth Company, said: 

“The new Apprenticeship Levy Matchmaking service will connect large employers with smaller organisations across Greater Manchester, so they can gift their unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds. The website was built by the Growth Company on behalf of the GMCA and is the first of its kind in the UK. It will help Greater Manchester’s small and medium enterprises to recruit new talent and develop their staff in ways which may not otherwise have been feasible.

“This new service is a prime example of how we do things differently in Greater Manchester. I have no doubt it will benefit the local economy, while helping to address skills gaps in key sectors.”

The drive to assist Greater Manchester’s young people into the world of work is already well under way – in May the GMCA announced Meet Your Future, the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s flagship campaign to give young people workplace shadowing opportunities showcasing the amazing breadth of careers across the city-region.

Now some of Greater Manchester’s largest employers have committed to taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the new Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service, including Lloyds Banking Group, the Co-op, Timpson and Sodexo.

Elyn Corfield, Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the North, said: 

“We’re proud to be partnering with the GMCA to help Greater Manchester’s businesses, large and small, to find and train the talent they need to thrive.

“As part of our commitment to helping the city-region prosper, we’re providing £1 million in levy funding to support apprenticeships across the region in the digital, technology and manufacturing sectors which we believe will help to boost productivity and help create long-term prosperity for the region.”

The city-region’s long-term vision is that Greater Manchester will lead the way in apprenticeship employment, providing quality opportunities for learning and development.

More employers than ever before will see the contribution that high quality, sustainable apprenticeships can make, while local residents will be inspired and supported to make decisions about how an apprenticeship can support their personal and professional development.

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