The Government are clear that in order for the UK to compete globally, we must have a world-class skills base across all sectors. Employers and professional representative bodies are best placed to know what skills their sectors need and to deliver these to the British workforce. This demand-led model was given life by the publication of “Skills for Sustainable Growth” in November 2010. “New Challenges New Chances”, published in December 2011, reaffirmed our approach and set out Government's plans for skills to 2015. We launched the Employer Ownership Pilot in November 2011 as a further step to achieving business ownership of the skills agenda. It is giving employers direct access to up to £250 million of public investment for training and apprenticeships over the next two years. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, recently announced the first successful bids from the first round of the pilot—34 bids will be supported by an expected £67 million of public investment, backed by £98 million of employer investment.
We are continuing the important work to improve and expand apprenticeships, particularly at Levels 3 and 4, to ensure that businesses have the skills required to compete, and that individuals have opportunities to re-skill throughout their careers. £25 million from the Higher Apprenticeship Fund has been allocated to 30 projects which will provide over 25,000 new Higher Apprenticeship places over the next three years. The new Higher Apprenticeships will be available in sectors including renewable energy, advanced engineering, insurance, space, retail and hospitality.
To help create apprenticeship opportunities, and to promote the programme amongst smaller employers, in April this year Government introduced incentive payments of £1,500 for smaller employers who take on young apprentices aged 16-24. The total number of incentive places available in 2012/13 is 40,000.