Apprenticeship funding to benefit businesses and young workers

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a new round of funding which will support thousands of young workers through new apprenticeship schemes.

Businesses and training providers will be able to bid for a share of a £6 million Higher Apprenticeship Fund aimed at creating thousands of degree level apprenticeship places in sectors ranging from media and design to aerospace and renewable technologies.

A further £250 million will be invested directly into businesses as part of a new pilot scheme known as Employer Ownership, allowing them to exercise more control on how they deliver new skills training. Applications for the scheme will open at the end of the month and bidding will run until the 26 April 2012.

As of next week, small firms will also be able to take advantage of a £1,500 apprenticeship incentive aimed at 16-24 year olds which is expected to support up to 40,000 new apprenticeships over the next year.

Speaking about the extra funding, David Cameron said: "By making apprenticeships a gold standard option for ambitious young people, we are sending a message that technical excellence is as highly valued as academic prowess.

"And by focusing investment where it is most needed to deliver sustainable growth and offering real ownership of vocational training to employers, we are equipping businesses with the skills they need to rebalance our economy and distribute opportunity more widely."

It is hoped the funding will not only boost youth employment, but businesses innovation too - a key factor if the UK is to keep up with global competition, according to a report released by the European Commission yesterday. The report claims that the UK is currently regarded as 'innovation follower' - that is failing to close the gap between global innovation leaders such as the US and Japan.

Skills minister John Hayes said: "Our mission is to put practical training on a level playing field with academic study, creating a highly skilled, creative workforce that can take on the best in the world."