Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon & East Thurrock, visited South Essex College at their Basildon campus on Friday 2 February to discuss National Apprenticeship Week.
Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, which takes place from 5 to 11 February, South Essex College invited Stephen to their Basildon campus for a video series about the benefits of apprenticeships.
First, Stephen discussed why apprenticeships are so vital to the local economy. With a vibrant local economy, businesses in South Basildon and East Thurrock want to grow and there is no better way for reliable, long-term growth than taking on apprentices. This is reflected in local statistics. In fact, since 2019, there have been consistently around 1,400 active apprenticeships and, each year, there are around 650 new apprentices and 300 successful completions.
Second, Stephen outlined what the Government was doing to encourage employers to take on apprentices. A cornerstone of Government policy is the Apprenticeship Levy. Introduced in 2018, the Levy is charged on businesses with an annual pay bill larger than £3 million at a rate of 0.5%. Big businesses are encouraged to use this Levy to invest in apprenticeship programmes. The money left over is used by the Government to support small businesses with 95% to 100% of apprenticeship training costs.
The Government is also encouraging employers by removing national insurance contributions for apprentices aged under 25 when the apprentice earns less than £4,189 per month and by granting employers a £1,000 cash contribution when they take on an apprentice aged under 19.
Third, Stephen highlighted the value that apprentices could add to a business. Most apprentices will go on to become important team players and learn the specialist skills required for the successful operation of that particular business. In fact, in surveys, the vast majority of employers (78%) have said that apprenticeships helped them improve productivity and improve the quality of their product or service (74%).
Next, Stephen discussed South Essex College’s provision of apprenticeships and T Levels which has grown rapidly in the last few years. Since launching in 2021, there are now T Levels available in engineering and manufacturing, construction, accounting, business, and beauty. Moreover, with the opening of Thurrock’s state-of-the-art Institute of Technology, there are now Higher Technical Qualifications in engineering, logistics and construction.
As part of the visit on Friday, Stephen met with Helen Sharpe, the Operations Director for Apprenticeships at South Essex College, to discuss the progress that has been made to highlight the advantages of apprenticeships. With three sites across South Essex, South Essex College is boosting local industry, providing alternative routes into employment, and increasing the number of people with valuable practical qualifications.
Stephen Metcalfe said: “Many thanks to South Essex College for inviting me to join them ahead of National Apprenticeship Week.
Apprenticeships are taking off. There have been more than 5.5 million apprenticeships since 2010 and over 570,000 people took part in an apprenticeship last year.
More and more students are realising that university is not the be-all and end-all. Technical qualifications and apprenticeships offer a wealth of opportunity and different way of learning.
Skills are crucial in this modern economy – they are a commodity. So, I would encourage all students to consider the apprenticeship route.
For employers, I would say apprentices are a solid investment – creating value and adding reliable team members. The Government will support you to this end.”