Published: 13:30, 07 March 2017
Kent County Council has pledged to double the number of apprentices in Kent as part of a new awareness campaign.
Council leader Paul Carter used a gathering of business leaders at the Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham today to announce his aim to increase the number of new starters to more than 22,000 by 2020.
He launched the Made in Kent campaign with the help of 11 apprentices, who walked the streets of the town holding up giant letters spelling out the name of the initiative.
There were 11,130 apprenticeship starts in Kent – not including Medway – during the 2015/16 academic year.
The campaign comes as the Government prepares to bring in large reforms to apprenticeships from April including a 0.5% levy on companies with a pay bill of more than £3 million.
Companies can then access the money they have paid into the levy if they use it to train apprentices.
Cllr Carter said: “The Made in Kent campaign is KCC’s way of celebrating the success of apprentices across the county and promoting the considerable benefits they bring to employers large and small.
“KCC is committed to doing all we can to ensure that as many apprentices as possible continue to be Made in Kent and that the maximum amount of training funds available through the apprenticeship levy is spent in Kent, for the benefit of local businesses and people.”
MiddletonMurray, the largest commercial apprenticeship training provider for the Skills Funding Agency, which has offices in Canterbury and Sandwich, is backing the campaign.
Chief executive Angela Middleton said: “No business should look at the apprenticeship levy as ‘just another tax’.
“The money paid remains yours to use, and from our experience all businesses can benefit from the wide range of high quality, work relevant apprenticeship training opportunities now available.
“However, I would warn that employers need to take action now. Once the levy comes in, funds raised are available on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, and for many employers it will take a little time to get the right arrangements in place.”
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame, who employs about 4,500 people, said businesses should view the levy as an opportunity rather than a tax.
He said: “The levy seems like a tax because it is a cost to business but actually it is a fabulous opportunity and vehicle to take forward the skills in our company and in the hospitality business.
“This is the moment to invest in our own people and grow our businesses for the long term.”
Christopher North, a business administration apprentice at the Research Network in Sandwich, was one of the apprentices carrying the giant campaign letters.
Mr North, who lives in Eythorne, Dover, said: “Becoming an apprentice offered me a great way to learn and earn.
“I didn’t want to go to uni, but being an apprentice means I can still get qualifications and a good job, without the student debt.”
Kent County Council has launched its campaign shortly after the KM Group launched its Kick Start Kent initiative, which aims to improve the number of apprentices finishing their courses.
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