First rail companies pledge £300,000 for apprenticeship scheme

Two large employers are helping the region’s economy recover from Covid-19 by pledging £300,000 to the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to boost jobs and skills at smaller businesses.

CrossCountry and Chiltern Railways, part of the Arriva group, are the first train operators to join the scheme.

The WMCA set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund to cover the costs of training apprentices at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands and last month funded training for a record 232 apprentices across the region.

A total of 936 apprentices and 302 SMEs have now benefited from the fund.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It is absolutely critical that we do everything we can to support new job and training opportunities following the Covid-19 pandemic, which is set to see many people lose their jobs.

“Our Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund is a fantastic way to do this, as it allows smaller firms to hire apprenticeships and help train and skill them up, when normally they would not be able to afford to do so.

“But the success of this fund depends entirely on contributions from big employers in the region, so it is brilliant news that CrossCountry and Chiltern Railways have become the first train operating companies to join the scheme.

“I would urge more firms to come forward and pledge their unspent apprenticeship levy money, so we can create more apprenticeship opportunities in the region at a critical time for our local economy.”

Charged by HM Revenue and Customs on all businesses with a payroll of over £3m, the levy is held by the Government for businesses across the country to use the funds to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment by bringing in new talent or plugging skills gaps with their staff. Any unspent levy is retained by the Government after a two-year period.

Tom Joyner, managing director at CrossCountry, which has pledged £200,000, said: “We are delighted to be the first Midlands-based train operator to support this initiative.

“Birmingham is at the heart of our network, so it’s fantastic to be able to support apprenticeships in our home city, helping to develop skills and drive economic growth in the region.”

Mary Hewitt, interim managing director at Chiltern Railways, said: “Promoting skills and training is a top priority for our business. Chiltern Railways is committed to supporting our own people in apprenticeship roles across our business. We are proud to partner with the WMCA to offer the same opportunity to the employees of businesses across the region.”