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Further Education: Small Businesses

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL10644, tabled on 23 November 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to boost employment through partnerships between colleges and SMEs.

Answered on

7 December 2020

As the economy changes and we rebuild after the COVID-19 outbreak, there will be a real need for upskilling, reskilling and retraining to get people back into work as quickly as possible. In order to do this, we need a world-class skills system and we will shortly be delivering a White Paper which will build on this vision in England. Further education will be at the very heart of that vision with its ability to offer flexible and practical training that leads directly to jobs. We will look to colleges to play a leading role in developing skills in their areas, in responding to local economic needs and acting as centres for business development.

We are already encouraging providers to work in partnership with employers, including through our £290 million investment in twenty Institutes of Technology, the government’s flagship programme designed to spearhead the delivery of higher technical education in STEM subjects. They bring together employers with further education colleges and universities into a new type of prestigious institution. They will be equipping many businesses, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with the skills they need to drive productivity and take advantage of key growth opportunities.

Employer-designed standards are central to our reforms to apprenticeships, driving up quality and delivering the skills that employers need. We are providing a new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25 and a payment of £1,500 for each new apprentice an employer hires aged 25 and over, before 31 January 2021. We have also introduced incentive payments, enabling employers to apply for £1,000 per learner, for employers who offer traineeship work placement opportunities between 1 September 2020 and 31 July 2021.

Colleges provide an important role in supporting SMEs to create new apprenticeships. As we recover from the impact of COVID-19 we want to ensure we grow the number of SMEs offering apprenticeships, supported by funding, given that they are vital to the UK economy. We have already committed to improve the working of the Apprenticeship Levy. We will also work with large employers to improve the transfer process, making it easier for them to find smaller employers to transfer levy funds to, helping them maximise the amount of funding they will be able to transfer.

In addition, training providers are also working alongside employers (many of whom are SMEs), to deliver traineeships which prepare young people for apprenticeships and work through a combination of sector-focused skills development and work experience.