WMCA funds apprenticeship training to help Birmingham tech company hire new staff

Local people are benefiting from new jobs and free apprenticeship training at a Birmingham technology company, thanks to a scheme set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, which was set up by the WMCA, covers the costs of training apprentices at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through larger organisations donating their unspent levy.

The WMCA and its partners see a strong and growing digital sector as crucial in the region’s recovery from the Covid-19 shutdown.

Jobs in technology are expected to be in higher demand, with some businesses continuing to recruit during the lockdown.

IT solutions and recruitment company Crimson has partnered with tech apprenticeship provider Digital Native UK to develop an in-house academy to hire and develop staff, who can expect to earn more than £35,000 on completion of their apprenticeship.

The company is currently recruiting eight to ten new apprentices, with all their training paid via the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund.

Candidates who join the academy come from a variety of backgrounds including school leavers, graduates and those looking for a change of career. Apprentices can complete a degree level IT apprenticeship within three years.

In addition to securing vendor qualifications from Microsoft, each apprentice is mentored, equipping them with the soft skills and confidence they need to develop a long-term career.

Crimson, which has grown by nearly 70 per cent in the last three years, has almost 100 employees, including 12 apprentices.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Training local people in digital skills is crucial in supporting the region’s priorities for our post-Covid economic recovery.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to support Crimson’s training academy through the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund and, as a result, the company is recruiting new staff in these difficult times.

“I’d urge any SMEs from across the West Midlands that are planning to take on new apprentices, or want to upskill their existing workforce, to get in touch with us and find out how we can help.”

Rob Mallaband, managing director of Crimson, who completed an apprenticeship himself in the 1980s, said: “Having our apprenticeship training academy funded through the levy transfer scheme means we are establishing a highly skilled team. We are committed to growing a diverse workforce and look for candidates with raw talent, a growth mindset and a desire to solve business problems using technology.

“Our apprentices make a huge contribution to our business. They start gaining experience on real-life projects just one month into the apprenticeship scheme, and half of their time is already chargeable within the first six months.”

Academy apprentice Megan Casey, aged 24, from Alvechurch, said: “Before Crimson, I was working in an office job where there was little talk about my personal development. I knew I was capable of more and I wanted a career.

“Six months into the apprenticeship, I’ve passed two IT exams, presented to two schools, attended a Women in Tech event, built a solution and attended two customer sites, but most importantly made friends for life. The opportunities here are truly endless.”

Crimson has partnered with Birmingham-based Digital Native UK, a specialist technology apprenticeship provider, to design and deliver the training programme.

Martin Stilgoe, commercial director of Digital Native, said “I’m extremely proud of the partnership we have with the WMCA and Crimson. We worked closely with the senior leaders at Crimson to position the apprenticeship programme at the heart of their growth strategy whilst providing exciting, unique career opportunities for people in the region.”

Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills, said: “Our digital sector is the ‘golden thread’ across many of our key industries and is also a fast-growing sector in its own right. Technology companies will play an essential role in the region’s recovery from the Covid-19 shutdown, and it’s great to see the WMCA helping Crimson to create new apprenticeships through the levy transfer fund.”

The apprenticeship levy is charged by HM Revenue and Customs on all businesses with a payroll of over £3 million. The levy money is held digitally by the Government, and businesses across the country can utilise the funds by paying for apprenticeship training and assessment costs by bringing in new talent or plugging skills gaps with their staff. After a two-year period, unspent levy contributions are ‘sunset’ and retained by the Government.

The £69m Skills Deal agreed with the Government in summer 2018 – the first of its kind in the country – set up the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund by allowing the WMCA to partner large organisations with local SMEs. This means the large employers donate a portion of their unspent apprenticeship levy funds to the smaller companies, covering 100% of their apprenticeship training and assessment costs.

So far, the scheme has created 704 new apprenticeships at 269 SMEs across the region.

For more information about how the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund can help SMEs, visit apprenticeships.

To find out more about becoming an apprentice, visit www.apprenticeships.gov.uk

The WMCA is investing £5m through the ‘Beat the Bots’ digital retraining fund to equip local people with the skills needed to gain new jobs in the digital sector. For more information visit https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/productivity-and-skills/online-resources/