A group of leading universities, students unions and businesses have called on the Government to invest in skills through greater flexibility of apprenticeship levy funds.

In a letter sent to the Government, the leaders of ten universities along with multinational companies, local enterprise partnerships and student representatives have recommended that urgent action is taken to prioritise skills funding as the United Kingdom looks towards an economic recovery following the pandemic.

Writing to the Treasury and Department for Education which is responsible for the Government’s skills agenda, the group of signatories make the case for a time-limited broadening of apprenticeship levy funding to be used for the skills ‘agenda’. The letter also calls on Ministers to look at proposals for companies to be able to use their unspent apprenticeship levy to tackle regional skills gaps in locally-led partnerships between businesses and educational providers.

Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading and co-signatory of the letter, said:

“The pandemic has had a tragic and profound effect on all of our lives, both in terms of the human cost and the immense shockwaves that it has sent through our economy. Young people have disproportionately felt the burden of that economic shock.

“As the United Kingdom prepares for post-pandemic recovery, it is only right that we invest in our future workforce and act swiftly to provide training and opportunities for those beginning their future careers.

“We are calling on the Government to work with us to look at how we can kickstart the investment in skills by unlocking apprenticeship levy funding that is currently only narrowly available for few opportunities. We represent five economic regions with distinct skills challenges, and therefore we are calling for flexibility so that local partnerships can decide on how best to invest in skills that are so needed for those regions.”

Rachel Osborne, President of the Reading University Students’ Union, said:

“This is a really hard time for graduates and students looking for employment as it is an incredibly competitive market. This is why it really is essential to have additional skill funding and career support to make sure students reach their fullest potential.”

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