Businesses will be able to bid for a share of a £250 million fund for vocational training programmes in the new year, as part of a government scheme designed to bring more skills into the workforce.
The Government announced that the fund will be open to collaborative proposals from businesses of all sizes and sectors, and will allow them to invest in the training that they need.
Prime Minister David Cameron said that he hoped the fund would encourage more employers to take on apprentices and ensure that businesses have the necessary skills to boost growth.
The move follows calls for the Government to take action on youth unemployment as the number of young people out of work topped one million yesterday.
“I know times are tough – especially for young people, who are trying to get their foot in the door and launch their career,” Cameron commented. “That is why I am determined to do all that we can to give people the very best skills, training and opportunities to succeed; and why, despite tough spending decisions, we are investing in a record number of apprenticeships.
“We are seeing an incredible take-up of these apprenticeship places. I want that to continue, which is why we are taking action to make it easier to take on apprentices, and now we are giving employers the power to take control of the training so that it best meets the skills they need.”
Government funding for the scheme in 2012/13 will be up to £50 million, with an additional £200 million available in the second year.
To be successful in their bids, employers will need to demonstrate how they will leverage private investment, support apprenticeships and raise skill levels in their sector.
Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which will be publishing a formal prospectus on the fund in conjunction with the Government early next year, said: “Skills are not a separate agenda but integral to growth. We have seen some progress but not enough. Too often the skills system appears to businesses as a government-led enterprise rather than one led by employers.
“We need more businesses working together with their supply chains, and sectors of localities to develop the skills they need. The best way to do this is to route funds directly to employers, placing the responsibility for how the money is spent with the employer, not the Government.”