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Linking the Locks: News and Updates
Linking the Locks celebrates 2nd year achievements
Published Friday, 7th April 2017
Thursday 30th March saw the celebration event for Warrington & Co.’s Linking the Locks project, a joint Warrington Borough Council and Halton Borough Council initiative.
Held at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and attended by a mix of local employers, apprentices and key partners from within Warrington and Halton, delegates were able to hear first-hand about the remarkable achievements of the project since its official launch in March 2015.
“I am extremely proud of this project and what is has achieved, and the opportunities we have been able to create for residents in Warrington and Widnes. We have worked with interesting, exciting and extremely supportive businesses who have completely bought into the project’s ethos which is to provide sustainable jobs for the area.
In addition to this we have also been able to set-up formal voluntary programmes with the Sankey Canal Restoration Society to provide younger people with the chance to get involved in restoration works and develop their softer skills whilst making a valued contribution to the area along the Sankey Canal.
None of this would have been possible were it not for our network of partners who have worked very closely with us and helped to drive forward the desired outcomes of Linking the Locks.”
For the full article, click here.
Consultation launched on the new Institute for Apprenticeships
Published Wednesday, 4th January 2017
The Department for Education has today released a new consultation and draft strategic guidance on the formation and function of the Institute for Apprenticeships. Now’s your chance to have your say and comment on the operations and direction of the independent body.
Consultations closes 31/01/17 and can be accessed by clicking here
Apprenticeship Levy Update
Published Friday, 12th August 2016
Government have today published their latest update on the Apprenticeship Levy, due to come into practice from 6th April 2017, including their proposals on how apprenticeship funding will work for both levy-paying and non levy-paying employers.
Employers with less than £3M per annum wage bill, and thus not paying the levy, will be required to contribute 10% towards the cost of training, with government paying the remaining 90%. All existing and new apprenticeship frameworks and standards will be placed into one of 15 funding bands, with the upper limit ranging from £1,500 to £27,000. The upper limit will cap the maximum amount of digital funds a levy-paying employer can use towards an individual apprenticeship; it will also cap the maximum price that government will ‘co-invest’ towards, where an employer does not pay the levy or has insufficient digital funds remaining. It will be up to employers to negotiate prices with employers, within these funding limits. Employers will be able to agree a payment schedule with their provider and spread their payments over the lifetime of the apprenticeship.
Other announcements include:
Currently apprenticeships are funded at different rates depending on the age of the learner. Each individual framework will be allocated to a single funding band, simplifying the process for employers. The table below shows the proposed 15 funding bands:
Support for small employers
Employers with less than 50 staff who recruit/train 16-18 year old apprentices will not be required to pay the co-investment fee. This means they will not have to pay towards the cost of training. In addition, government will make an additional payment of £1000 to the employer for recruiting a 16-18 year old, paid in two equal instalments at 3 months and 12 months.
Extra support for additional learning needs
Government will make an additional payment of £1000 to employers and £1000 to training providers to help with the extra costs to support apprentices aged 16-18 and 19-24 year old care leavers/or who have an Education, Health and Care plan. This will ensure all individuals have the opportunity to benefit from an apprenticeship. Government will also pay 100% of the training costs for small employers where the apprentice is a 19-24 care leaver or has a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan.
Support for Maths and English training and Learning Support
To help each apprentice gain a minimum standard of Level 2 in English and Maths, government will pay training providers £471 for each of these qualifications.
Where an apprentice required additional learning support as a result of conditions such as dyslexia, learning difficulties or disabilities, government will pay providers £150 a month, as per the current system.
Those employers who will not pay the levy can continue to access the current funding system until the terms change on 1st May 2017. From this date, they can look for training and search for a training provider using the tools on the digital apprenticeship service, but will not be required to use the digital apprenticeship service to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment until at least 2018.
16-24 AGE Grant
Currently, government pay a grant to small employers (less than 50 staff) to support them in taking on new apprentices aged between 16-24. The AGE Grant scheme will continue until the end of the 2016/2017 academic year i.e. 31st July 2017.
The government have also launched an online tool to help employers calculate the cost of the levy and how the funding system will work for them, which can be accessed here.
Apprenticeship Levy: How it will work
Published Friday, 22nd April 2016
On Thursday 21st April, government published its latest update on how the Apprenticeship Levy will work when it is introduced on 6th April 2017.
The apprenticeship levy requires all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3 million each year, to make an investment in apprenticeships. You can benefit from this investment by training apprentices.
The guidance also explains the principles that apprenticeship funding and the levy will operate on from April 2017, whether you pay the levy or not.
To view the latest guidance, click here
New legislation to end ‘outdated snobbery’ towards apprenticeships
Published Wednesday, 3rd February 2016
Schools must allow access to apprenticeship providers and colleges to create a level playing field in careers guidance.
A new law would see apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships or other TPE routes.
The move follows concerns from ministers about careers advice, with some schools currently unwilling to recommend apprenticeships or other technical and professional routes to any but the lowest-achieving pupils – effectively creating a 2-tiered system of careers advice.
The new legislation will mean schools will be required by law to collaborate with colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including higher and degree apprenticeships.
The government will look to bring in the legislation at the earliest opportunity, with more information to be set out in the forthcoming careers strategy.
The full announcement can be viewed here
Consultants sought for Sankey Canal engagement and feasibility project
Published Thursday, 10th December 2015
Following the successful work completed to date by the Sankey Interlocks project, which consists of members from Warrington and Halton Borough Council’s, SCARS, local businesses/partners and Linking the Locks, we have been awarded funding by the Coastal Communities Alliance to allow our Coastal Communities Team to bridge some of our current knowledge gaps and help us to identify our next steps.
To meet the aims our Coastal Communities Team and to further develop interest in the Sankey Canal Interlocks project we wish to engage a consultant to deliver a series of engagement events and map out the future way forward for our audience participation, as well ascertain the feasibility of a heritage/environmental learning facility in the project area.
Invitations to formally tender for this project are available to view here.
Closing date for submissions is Monday 21st December at 10:00am
Widnes-based D&F Associates Ltd welcomes two new Apprentices to their team
Published Monday, 5th October 2015
Established in 1999, D&F Associates Ltd is a nationally approved laboratory specialising in the analysis of compost and recycled waste products. Operating from their Widnes based laboratories, D&F Associates carry out occupational and environmental assessments at customer sites throughout the UK.
Founded by Managing Director Sandra Davies, D&F Associates Ltd were looking to increase their services and customer base and recognised the need to add to their technical and administration teams to support their business development plans.
“I am passionate about maintaining the science knowledge base that is historic in our area and being able to develop new roles for local talent is one of the main drivers of our business” says Sandra, “staff who joined us at a young age have grown with us but as a small company we recognise the support that the apprenticeship scheme offers to both our business and the development of our staff”.
With this ethos in mind, D&F Associates approached Warrington & Co. to explore how its Linking the Locks project could help to add two new apprentices into key positions within the company – Laboratory Technician and Administration Assistant.
After initial discussions to agree on the job roles, Jonathan and Joanne from Warrington & Co. were able to source a suitable training provider, St Helens College, and managed the entire recruitment process for D&F Associates. The result was both roles being successfully filled with two new staff members starting in September 2015.
David Tattum, 25, from Hough Green was successful in securing the position of Apprentice Laboratory Technician and increases the number of technicians to 4. With a natural interest in science, David had previously worked in Lab and Quality Assurance roles in Liverpool.
On beginning his apprenticeship with D&F Associates, David says “this Apprenticeship has come at the right time for me; it provides me with the opportunity to build the skills and knowledge needed to obtain a formal qualification to complement my practical abilities.
The team at D&F Associates are very approachable and encourage me to get involved in all aspects of the business.
I feel that I’m making a significant contribution to the team”.
Danielle Welsh, 19, from Ditton also joined D&F Associates in September as Apprentice Administrative Assistant, supporting the Office Manager across all of the company’s key back-office functions including finance, HR and quality processes.
So what has been Danielle’s experience? “Since joining D&F Associates and starting my Apprenticeship I feel more confident within my capability. I feel accepted and find I now have more knowledge of the work place and really enjoy it”.
Sandra adds: “I’ve been really pleased with the entire process. We now have two wonderful apprentices – David and Danielle- who have quickly settled into their roles and it feels as though they have been with us forever! The courses organised and operated by St Helens College have also allowed us to look at our existing staff and one of our technicians has decided to follow the NVQ route to gain a formal qualification to complement his practical abilities”
Changes in Minimum Wage Rates from 1st October 2015
Published Wednesday, 30th September 2015
From 1st October 2015 the adult rate of the National Minimum Wage will rise by 20p from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour. The new apprenticeship rate will be set at £3.30 per hour and represents a rise of 57p, the largest increase in National Minimum Wage for apprentices.
As a result, the contribution rates from the Linking the Locks Wage Subsidy will alter slightly for any new apprentice starts after 1st October 2015.
Linking the Locks will honour the existing 2015/2015 contribution rates for any apprentices who started their employment prior to 1st October 2015.
Please refer to the table below for clarification:
Government seeking views from employers on its proposal to implement an apprenticeships levy
Published Friday, 21st August 2015
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has today launched its consultation on its proposal to introduce an Apprenticeship Levy and would particularly welcome views from employers, business organisations, training organisations and anyone with a vested interest.
The consultation is open from 21st August 2015 to 2nd October 2015 and views are being sought on:
+ how to pay the levy
+ how the levy should work for employers who operate across the whole of the UK
+ how to make sure that employers paying the levy have the opportunity to get more out than they pay in
+ how best to give employers control of apprenticeships
This consultation only covers implementation of the levy. More detail on the levy rate and scope will be provided later in the year.
David Cameron has restated the importance of apprenticeships to his vision of a “One Nation” Government and will insist his plans to create three million apprenticeships will give employers a workforce with the skills required.
Mr Cameron said: “The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce. And by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business.
“As a One Nation government, we are committed to supporting three million quality apprenticeships over the next five years – to help strengthen our economy, deliver the skills that employers need and give millions more hard-working people financial security and a brighter future.”
Mr Cameron also highlighted measures that will make the Government take a company’s apprenticeship offer into account when awarding large contracts and revealed a new range of industry apprenticeship standards for a range of professions including nuclear engineers and fashion assistants.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Skilled people are the lifeblood of a strong economy but for too long UK businesses have invested too little in developing their employees’ skills to meet the demands of a competitive, global market.
“The apprenticeship levy will ensure that businesses invest in skills and training, and will act as a much needed shot in the arm for the country’s productivity.”
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced his desire to boost apprenticeships in road and rail industries, pledging 30,000 places by 2020.
John Longworth, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the focus should be on creating quality apprenticeships rather than hitting an arbitrary target.
He said: “It is right that the Government is seeking to engage businesses and consult on the introduction of an apprenticeship levy to make sure this policy is properly thought-through.
“Apprenticeship schemes can play a part in meeting important ambitions to boost skills and drive-up productivity. But for apprenticeships to take hold and become established, the focus should be on quality – not hitting an arbitrary figure. The conveyor belt model is not what business wants to see.
“If the quality is there, the demand, from employers and potential apprentices, will follow.
“BCC research shows that greater engagement with smaller businesses is needed to increase apprenticeship take-up. Government policy is currently too focused on major employers, but equal effort ought to be put on encouraging and supporting smaller businesses to offer apprenticeships.”
Companies bidding for government contracts worth over £10m will be expected to demonstrate a clear commitment to apprenticeships, David Cameron has announced, as part of a government push to create three million more apprenticeship places this parliament.
From 1 September 2015, all bids for government procurement contracts – which are worth £50bn a year – will be expected to demonstrate that they have “a reasonable proportion” of their workforce in an apprenticeship or formal training programme.
The levy on large employers in England who train apprentices is expected to be introduced by April 2017 and will supplement government funding for more apprenticeships. Funds raised will provide participating employers with a digital voucher that can be used to buy training.
Levies on businesses are used to finance apprenticeships in over 50 countries, including France, Netherlands, Denmark and South Korea, but the amount that UK businesses have invested in training has fallen consistently over the last 20 years.
To view the consultation, click here.
True Fit Golf Ltd: reaping the benefits of Apprentice talent thanks to Linking the Locks
Published Wednesday, 17th June 2015
True Fit Golf Ltd is located next to Fiddler’s Ferry on the Warrington / Widnes border. Established in 1985, the company has continued to grow, boasting an 18 hole golf course, specialist superstore, 22 bay driving range, as well as providing PGA coaching.
As a result of their growth and expansion, True Fit Golf in conjunction with Warrington & Co. have recruited their first Groundskeeper Apprentice via the Linking the Locks scheme.
Elaine Overton, Company Secretary, says “When we were approached by Warrington & Co. regarding the Linking the Locks project, we immediately saw an opportunity to strengthen our current Facilities Maintenance Team by offering an opportunity for someone local to join our company as a Groundskeeper Apprentice. We are a family business and we were keen to take on someone to grow with us as our company continues to develop.
“We have never had an Apprentice before so it was something of an unknown territory for us. Warrington & Co. have been there every step of the way; they were able to source a suitable training provider, Myerscough College, and assisted with the entire recruitment process – even arranging and attending our interviews.
Our first Apprentice, Josh, is now in post and has quickly settled into the team.”
Joshua Rivers from Widnes applied for the position via Myerscough College. Having completed his GCSE’s in 2014, he was looking for an opportunity to kick-start his professional Greenskeeper career. On joining True Fit Golf in June, Joshua says “I’m really enjoying my role here. I prefer to learn whilst on the job so an Apprenticeship was ideal for me as I get hands-on experience. In the future I hope to eventually have my own professional Greenskeeper business.”
As a result of the financial support on offer, and the successful recruitment of Joshua, True Fit Golf are also strengthening their Retail function through the recruitment of a Retail Apprentice for their specialist Golf superstore.
Government announces plans to reach 3 million Apprenticeships by 2020
Published Monday, 15th June 2015
Government has announced on Sunday, 14th June, how it plans to kick-start its aim to create 3 million apprenticeships over the next five years. This commitment, along with the term ‘apprenticeship’, will be protected in law giving them equal legal treatment as degrees and giving government the power to take action when the term is misused to promote low quality courses.
This will help to strengthen their reputation and ensure that apprenticeships are recognised as a career path equal to higher education. To ensure more young people can benefit, the Skills Minister has also announced that public bodies including schools, hospitals, prisons and police forces will be set targets to take on more apprentices.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said:
“If university graduates have their moment in the sun so should people who undertake apprenticeships. Businesses know their value so it’s high time they were recognised both by the public and in law as being equal to degrees.
We want far more employers to get involved in apprenticeships. This means making sure that we practise what we preach in government, so we’re going require all public sector bodies – schools, hospitals, prisons and police forces – to employ apprentices.”
Prince’s Trust Team make improvements to Sankey Bridges
Published Thursday, 4th June 2015
Working in partnership with the Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS), Groundwork’s Prince’s Trust Team have made significant improvements to the public space and pathways at Sankey Bridges, a popular location providing access to the Sankey Valley Park and Trans-Pennine Trail and a key area along the Linking the Locks project.
Culminating in a community-based project, participants in Team 1 were asked to select a suitable project and to raise funds for materials and equipment. Tasks completed include clearing and widening the footpaths, removing overgrown vegetation and graffiti and re-painting the railings along the Sankey Canal.
Delivered for the first time in Warrington by Groundwork CLM, over a 16-week period Prince’s Trust participants have been developing qualifications, practical skills, community projects and a residential week in Derbyshire to develop independent living skills. The programme is life-changing and is designed to boost young people’s confidence and open the door to work or further training.
Laura Harper, Development Officer from Groundwork CLM says ‘’The team have worked exceptionally hard the past few weeks to plan and complete the project; the team have overcome personal barriers, gained new skills and identified skills they did not know they had. Working on the project at Sankey Bridge has provided an opportunity for the team to meet the local community, speak to local businesses and to come together as a team to make a difference within the community.’’
Tom Lyons, Prince’s Trust participant from Penketh says ‘’Seeing the team come together and communicating with each other to make the project a success has helped us to make a difference in the community’’.
Jaymea Noble, Prince’s Trust participant from Fairfield says ‘’I liked the community project because we all worked as a team and I have learned new skills, the area looks a lot better and more presentable’’.
Jade Obrien, Prince’s Trust participant from Howley says ‘I enjoyed the community project because it built my confidence up, I was the team leader for one day which helped with my confidence as it encouraged me to speak out within the group’’.
A celebration event was held at Sankey Bridges on Thursday 4th June and certificates were presented to the participants by SCARS and Warrington & Co. Groundwork are interested in speaking with any local businesses who would be able to accommodate a work placement for participants.
Recruitment for Team 2 is now open and is due to commence in August 2015. Referrals can be made via Laura Harper, Development Officer at Groundwork via firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on volunteering on other projects along the Sankey Canal, contact Jonathan Aghanian via email@example.com.
‘Linking the Locks’ launched in Warrington and Widnes
Published Monday 27th April, 2015
The Linking the Locks project was officially launched in Warrington and Widnes at events held at True Fit Golf Centre, Cuerdley and Catalyst Science Museum, Spike Island. Delivered by Warrington & Co. this is a joint project between Warrington BC, Halton BC with specialist input from the Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS).
Linking the Locks will provide a package of support to businesses and organisations located along the route of the Sankey Canal.
During each event, attended by a mixture of local businesses, partners and key agencies in Warrington and Halton, delegates reacted positively to news of the project’s aims which includes:
+ Financial Support with Apprentice Wage Costs
Allowing businesses to pay at least National Minimum Wage to their Apprentices, improving retention, long-term development and attracting the best candidates
+ FREE support with Recruitment
Including advertising, pre-screening and ongoing support once the Apprentice is in post
+ Accessing wider business support from local partners
Additional training/development needs are met using local b2b referrals, accessing relevant funding support wherever applicable
+ The long-term vision for the Sankey Canal
Both Warrington BC & Halton BC aim to re-establish the historic canal to full navigation, thereby generating new leisure/tourism and business opportunities to both boroughs
Speaking at the events, Jonathan Aghanian, Business Development Officer for the project, said “This is a unique programme for small-medium businesses based along the historic Sankey Canal route.
Not only will the project make a valued contribution to improvements in the local environment, crucially it will enable businesses to access financial assistance and expert guidance on recruiting and retaining skilled Apprentices/Trainees in the local area.
Coupled with the ability to access wider support from our partners in this project, it really does present a fantastic opportunity for organisations within Warrington and Widnes”.