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The next generation of engineers supported by the Skills Factory

• Progression wage subsidy for engineering apprenticeships available for Black Country SMEs.
• 62 Black Country SMEs supported to date, an investment in up-skilling and skills development of £74,000 since July 2013.
• Skills Factory delivers 25% of the City Deal first year apprentices target.

The Black Country Skills Factory is continuing to support the next generation of engineers through Apprentice Wage subsidy’s offered to High Value Manufacturing (HVM) SMEs with employers encouraged to develop their apprentice’s to the next level through the Progression Subsidy.

The Black Country Skills Factory is an employer-led project supported by government funding whose aim is to address the skills shortages in the HVM sector in the Black Country, the only scheme of this kind across the UK to focus specifically on the HVM sector.

A subsidy of £1,250 is offered to companies that decide to up-skill their apprentice(s) to the next level (e.g. Level 2 to Level 3, or Level 3 to Level 4) of HVM engineering apprenticeships.

To-date the Skills Factory has supported 62 Black Country SMEs in employing engineering apprentices providing wage subsidies of up to £1,500 per apprentice, an investment of approximately £74,000 since July 2013. The 62 companies supported by wage subsidies through this scheme represent approximately 25% of the City Deal first year target (1,500 apprentices over 5 years). 

Kingswinford based Carbex is one Black Country firm to benefit from a wage subsidy for their apprentice Harry Watkins. Taking on an apprentice allowed Carbex to develop essential skills to coincide with a surge in growth for the company and provide much needed capacity on the shop floor. Aged 19, Harry Watkins is undertaking an Advanced Apprenticeship in Manufacturing Engineering with Dudley College and the apprenticeship at Carbex enables him to continue his studies whilst gaining on the job, practical experience. 

Nigel Houlston, Carbex Director, said: "Machinery is of no use without skilled people and attention to detail is important. Harry’s progress has been phenomenal due to his diligent approach to work and hunger to learn. The apprenticeship has allowed us to support his career aspirations and the Skills Factory wage subsidy enabled us to invest in the company’s future at the same time.”

Harry Watkins, Apprentice Tool Cutter and Grinder, said: "The apprenticeship has really kick started my career. I have a job and am able to earn while I learn and be confident I will have a qualification at the end of it. It has changed the way I think; testing my abilities and challenging the way I approach things, whilst giving me a sense of achievement at the same time.” 

Colin Parker, Project Director Black Country Skills Factory, said: "We are really beginning to see the impact of our on-going investment in addressing skills shortages in the Black Country HVM sector through apprentice wage subsidies. We are encouraging companies to take advantage of our on-going support through the Progression Subsidy, helping companies to build skilled workforces for the future and creating employment opportunities for the next generation of engineers.”

To be eligible for the Progression Subsidy, the apprentice must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage and have just successfully completed a Performing Engineering Operations apprenticeship at Level 2 (or a relevant engineering apprenticeship at Level 3). Companies taking on their first apprentice can also apply for a ‘First’ wage subsidy providing the apprentice is paid the National Minimum Wage. One subsidy of both the First or Progressing Subsidy is available per company.

The wage subsidies offered by the Skills Factory will help to support the Ladders for the Black Country campaign to boost the number of apprenticeships in the region. The initiative was launched on 18 September at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Exhibition. The patron is Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

For further information and to find out if your company is eligible for one of the engineering apprenticeship wage subsidies, visit or contact Colin Parker on 07944 268709. Follow the Skills Factory on Twitter: @BCSkillsFactory.


Picture credit: Harry Watkins working an optical profile grinding machine.

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