Close Brothers launches second phase to fund apprentices for SMEs

Close Brothers has announced the launch of phase two of its SME Apprenticeship Programme, in partnership with manufacturers’ organisation EEF and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA).

With the skills gap weighing heavily on the UK manufacturing sector, the scheme helps SMEs tackle the issues of cost and red tape so they can take on an apprentice and invest in a new generation of skilled workers.

Through its partnership with EEF and MTA, Close Brothers will this year select 20 manufacturing SMEs in the Birmingham area that need support in hiring a local apprentice to help answer their business needs. It will assist in recruiting and paying for 20 apprentices – one for each SME. The programme will fund half of the apprentices’ wages in the first year and a quarter in the second, helping to alleviate cost concerns.

The apprentices will be trained at EEF’s state-of-the-art technology training centre in Aston, near Birmingham, which is at the forefront of new manufacturing and engineering technologies. Here they will learn both traditional and the most cutting-edge techniques that will fully equip them for a sustainable and exciting career in modern industry.

The technology training centre was officially opened in April 2014 by local MP Khalid Mahmood. In November last year it unveiled further investment of £2 million into providing nine additional new training sections containing £700,000 of high-tech equipment. A further £5 million investment is going into the centre this year, which is to expand into a second site and increase the number of apprentices it trains from 250 to over 400 a year.

This second phase of the Close Brothers SME Apprenticeship Programme will build on the success of last year’s roll-out, which helped 20 SMEs in Sheffield to recruit an apprentice. These apprentices are being trained at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield. By phase three – next year - Close Brothers will be supporting up to 60 SMEs through its unique programme.

Applications are now open for SMEs to apply to join the scheme and successful companies will be announced the week of 4th July 2016. This same week, applications will open for apprentice candidates, with a launch event held at EEF in Birmingham the following week. Successful apprentice candidates will be announced at the end of August, ready for enrolment at the start of September.

Stephen Hodges, chief executive of Close Brothers Banking Division, commented: “I am delighted to announce the launch of phase two of our SME Apprenticeship Programme. Our partnership with EEF allows us to deliver another year of excellent results where the chosen young people will benefit from the highest standards of manufacturing training. In turn, our new 20 SMEs can welcome fully-equipped apprentices into their business without the need to take on the financial burden of providing them with the necessary skills.

“We know from our work with our SME manufacturing clients that there is an urgent need to recruit and train a new generation of skilled workers. We want our pioneering scheme to act as a model for helping SMEs hire young talent, without the barriers of cost and red tape, so they can unlock potential through investing in the new generation of skilled workers.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, commented: “Three quarters of UK manufacturers have struggled to recruit skilled workers in the last three years. The skills crunch affecting our sector is critical and is forcing firms to contend with issues over both the quantity and quality of skills available to them.

“This innovative scheme therefore ticks two big boxes. It is not only helping SMEs to find and fund a talented apprentice to help their business grow, but it is also helping to inject fresh blood into our sector’s skills pool.”

Close Brothers


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