There are still jobs out there, says apprentice who is benefiting from WMCA partnership with large employer

As thousands of teenagers across the West Midlands await their GCSE and A-level results this week, a Birmingham apprentice is urging other young people to think about starting an apprenticeship.

Arif Ali, aged 19, from Lozells, is a ground worker at Birmingham-based groundworks and civil engineering company J A Burke Construction Ltd, and his training is being funded through a scheme set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund enables large employers to pledge their unspent levy to fund the training of apprentices at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands.

UK facilities management company Mitie has become the latest employer to join the Fund, boosting it by £139,000 a year, and Arif is one of the apprentices that are benefiting from Mitie’s contribution.

He said: “I left school when I was 16 and was unemployed for two years before starting with J A Burke Construction Ltd. I always wanted to go into construction and kept contacting local employers until I was successful. I’d say to other young people who are looking for work to keep going because there are jobs out there.

“I’m working on an 18-month level 2 apprenticeship in groundworks, which hopefully will be a stepping stone to a career in management engineering. So far, I’ve learned about traditional and modern drainage methods and how to lay foundations. I’m working with a great team who have given me a fantastic opportunity, and I want to keep learning to be the best I can be.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It’s inspiring to hear Arif’s story about how he started his dream career. Apprenticeships are a great option for young people as an alternative to college or university. They offer the opportunity to earn while you learn and gain a valuable qualification at the end.

“So I’d like to thank Mitie and other large employers who are helping us to create new apprenticeship opportunities in the region and equip local people with the skills businesses need. This applies particularly to young people, who we know have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would encourage large employers in the West Midlands that haven’t spent all their apprenticeship levy, or SMEs thinking about taking on new apprentices, to get in touch with us and find out how we can help.”

Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, added: “The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund is a great way for local people to gain new jobs and qualifications, and for businesses to upskill their staff for the future.”

Jasmine Hudson, Group HR Director at Mitie, said: “We’re passionate about apprenticeships and the opportunities they offer, not only to teach skills to young people just starting their careers, but also to upskill and reskill existing colleagues. As a major employer we’re proud to be sharing our levy fund to help more businesses access apprenticeships.”

Kath Sheppard, HR and training manager at J A Burke Construction Ltd, said: “Apprentices are the future workers of the construction industry. An apprenticeship offers a great opportunity for a wonderful career in the sector, with many different jobs including ground workers, plant operators, site engineers and surveyors. The list is endless.

“Arif is advancing really well with help and guidance from independent training provider Salutem and our site managers and supervisors. We’re very grateful to Mitie for funding his training through its partnership with the WMCA.”

Charged by HM Revenue and Customs on all employers with a payroll of over £3 million, the levy is held by the Government for businesses across the country to utilise 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.

The WMCA uses its strong local knowledge and relationships to identify large employers that can donate unspent levy to SMEs through the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, covering 100% of their apprenticeship training and assessment costs.

The fund keeps apprenticeship levy money within the West Midlands, increasing skills, job opportunities and productivity by supporting more young people and adults of all ages into work.

Over £21m has been pledged and to date, 2,023 apprentices at 684 SMEs have benefited from the fund over the past two years.

Large organisations who would like to transfer their remaining levy to a local SME, and smaller employers interested in tapping into the fund, can find out more by visiting or contacting [email protected]

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Apprentice Arif Ali, who is benefiting from the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund

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