Merchant bank to finance 60 new apprenticeship roles personally

Conducted alongside the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme will fund 20 roles in the first year.

The merchant banking group, which reportedly had a loan book of £5.5bn at the end of January 2015, will pay for 20 apprentices to learn skills at the AMRC Training Centre. After that, Close Brothers has pledged to fund half of those new recruits’ wages for the first year, and a quarter for the second. This will, the lender said, mean SMEs “won’t have to bear the full cost” of employing an apprentice until a positive contribution to the business is being made.

Apprenticeships have featured heavily in the manifestos of the political parties set to go do the polls during the general election on 7 May. The Conservatives have said that money saved in reducing the benefits cap will be used to fund three million new apprenticeships. Meanwhile, Labour has pledged to establish an apprenticeship for every school leaver who makes certain grades. Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats would like to expand apprenticeships and develop national colleges for vocational skills.

Explaining the decision by Close Brothers to fund SME apprenticeship positions, the company’s banking division CEO Stephen Hodges said: “We know from our work with SMEs that many would like to take on apprentices but they are worried about the cost, time, and resources involved.

“Britian’s manufacturing companies urgently need to recruit and train a new generation of skilled engineering workers if they are to grow an increasingly competitive global market: we hope our initiative will help more SMEs to do just that.”

After funding 20 new roles in the first year of its programme, which is set for a first intake in September 2015, Close Brothers plans to recruit an additional 20 in year two, and 20 more in year three. The positions will be established at UK manufacturing and engineering firms.

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James Selka, CEO of the MTA, added: “Companies need highly-skilled workforces to enable them to get the most out of the latest technology they need to deploy to stay ahead. This initiative offers smaller firms the chance to be at the forefront of securing those skills for their futures.

“They, no less than larger companies, need to increase side-by-side investments in technology and skills to be globally competitive and meet customer demands for versatility. This scheme will help them do just that.”

Real Business reached out to Close Brothers to find out how much the programme is likely to cost the bank. Although an exact figure was not available, it is expected to be a “six-figure sum”.

Other recent apprenticeship news saw 23,000 new UK apprenticeships established by the likes of Microsoft, Halfords, RAF, and British Airways. At the start of National Apprenticeship Week in March, prime minister David Cameron backed BT’s plan for 1,000 new British apprenticeships and graduate jobs.

Barclay also became the first company in the UK to recruit using the degree-level trailblazer apprenticeship programme and also rolled out a scheme specifically aimed at those over 50.

Image: Shutterstock

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