THE introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy is starting to have an impact on the way companies are recruiting in Northampton, with a 10 per cent increase in the number of employer vacancies for apprentices.
Ruth Exelby, assistant principal for employer engagement at Northampton College, said the increase was a sign that businesses are starting to get to grips with the new system and are now embracing it to help revolutionise their recruitment strategy as they prepare to invest in the workforce of the future.
She said: "We have seen a change in attitude from some of the bigger employers. As a region we are 98 per cent SMEs and, before the levy, 60 per cent of our apprentices were working with SMEs. It's now switched and we have 60 per cent with large employers.
"Their money is going into a national pot, they are now waking up to the fact that they better use it. Savvy employers understand that a skills gap impacts on their bottom line and apprentices are a way of filling it.
"The levy is a great opportunity for UK PLC to get people talking about apprenticeships and progress our aim of parity between vocational and academic learning."
The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced last April and means that all employers with a pay bill of more than £3million must pay into a national fund. That fund is then used to pay for the training of apprentices across a range of industries.
Northampton College has forged strong links with local employers to help provide a clear pathway for students to gain their first steps in employment, giving them the chance to earn while they learn.
Kyle Auburn is in the second year of a two year NVQ in footwear manufacturing and is enjoying an apprenticeship with iconic shoemakers Church's.
He said: "Starting the apprenticeship has proved to be a great move. It's allowed me to earn a bit of money and do the things I wouldn't have been able to afford to do if I'd have gone down the University route. Rather than being in a mountain of debt I've been able to buy a car and learn to drive while getting a real taste of the world of work.
"Being at Church's has given me an incredible insight into the shoe trade - the industry that Northampton is known for around the world. I've had the chance to work my way around all the different departments in the company and I'm learning something new every day. It's been brilliant for me."
Northampton College's business centre team work closely with employers to make the apprenticeship process as straightforward as possible, cutting through the red tape to ensure both the student and the company can focus on what they do best, working hard and running their business.
For more information about courses and apprenticeships available through Northampton College visit www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk