Minister for skills and apprenticeships Anne Milton MP has visited Birmingham to meet the first apprentice hired through the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) unique £40m Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund.
Sean Faulkner, 20, is doing a Digital Marketing Level 3 apprenticeship with Jackdaw Tools in Willenhall thanks to the WMCA’s levy transfer funding, which will pay for his training.
Sean said he “jumped at the opportunity” to earn a living while he learns vital digital skills as part of the apprenticeship. Jackdaw Tools sales director Mark Younger said the levy funding transfer had allowed his business to “take the plunge” and hire an apprentice.
Anne Milton spoke to Sean and Mark face-to-face at an event at the WMCA offices in Summer Lane today (27 June) to find out about how WMCA’s unique transfer fund is working in practice.
Anne Milton MP said: Anne Milton MP said: “It was great to meet Sean and hear how he got onto his apprenticeship. Well done to Jackdaw Tools for taking the opportunity to take on an apprentice and realise the amazing opportunities apprenticeships offer.
“It is fantastic to see the West Midlands Combined Authority investing in apprenticeships through their £40m Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund. I was hugely impressed by the great work being done by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, to fill the skills gaps in their area.”
Now Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and former CEO of John Lewis, is calling on more of the region’s SMEs to apply for levy transfer funding to help create hundreds of new apprentice opportunities in the region.
Sean, from Willenhall, said: “I was never that big on classroom education. I did my GCSEs then did sixth form and got Level 3s in IT and business, but school education was never really my thing.
“With this apprenticeship, it’s completely different. I’m hands-on with what I’m learning, and that makes it more rewarding and easier to understand, and I’m earning and getting work experience and gaining more qualifications at the same time.
“It’s been really good, much better than I first thought it would be. I’ve been here just over a month and it’s been great so far. I was a bit sceptical when this opportunity came along, but as soon as I started I realised this is exactly what I want to do – I’m so glad I jumped at it.”
Mark Younger, sales director at Jackdaw Tools, said: “Jackdaw has been in business for 55 years, but the company didn’t really have a digital presence, so we were keen to get into the 21st Century and start to do more with our website and digital footprint.
“We were looking into getting an apprentice, and the West Midlands levy transfer fund was mentioned by Skills Training UK as something we might benefit from.
“When we found out we’d won funding from the levy, it meant we could take on an apprentice to look at our digital footprint and do what we needed to do – relaunch our website and boost our digital presence – and the money we’ve saved on training Sean has enabled us to invest in new computers and the tech Sean needs to do his job properly.
“As a small to medium enterprise (SME), there’s a fair chance we wouldn’t have taken the plunge like we have without the support we got and the levy transfer. It has really allowed us to take the plunge and we’re really pleased about that.”
Sue Gidman, from Skills Training UK, the training provider for Sean’s apprenticeship, said: “The West Midlands Combined Authority has taken an innovative approach with the levy transfer fund by providing opportunities for smaller businesses to use unspent levy pots.
“As a leading independent apprenticeships provider, we have been delighted to help Jackdaw Tools gain access to this funding and are delivering a tailored digital marketing apprenticeship to support their specific business needs.
“We are looking forward to seeing the positive outcomes this programme will bring and will continue to work with SMEs across the West Midlands to support them in making the most of this opportunity.”
The WMCA agreed a £69m Skills Deal with Government in 2018, which included giving the authority power to transfer unspent levy from large businesses to non-levy paying SMEs to cover 100% of their apprenticeship training costs.
Mayor Andy Street said: “We want to use the levy transfer to give businesses like Jackdaw Tools a real boost, and help create lots of opportunities for people like Sean.
“I was delighted to meet Mark Younger from Jackdaw to hear how the transfer of funding is helping to grow their business, and to meet Sean, who, at just 20 years old, has been given a great chance to build a brilliant career through his digital marketing apprenticeship.
“I am also pleased we were able to show Anne Milton, the skills and apprenticeships minister, how the West Midlands is leading the way on apprenticeships, and how the powers we have been given by Government are making a real difference to businesses, their staff and people forging their careers in our region.”
For more information on the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, and to find out how to apply for funding to train apprentices, visit: www.wmca.org.uk/apprenticeship-levy