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Gatwick Diamond Initiative calls on Government to end apprenticeships funding fiasco

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The Gatwick Diamond Initiative has called upon the Government to address the funding fiasco which will force universities in the area to abandon their degree apprenticeship programmes and colleges to reduce their apprenticeships offer to the small business community.

Following months of delays and problems with the tendering process, the Universities of Chichester and Brighton have been told that they will receive no funding to pay for non-levy Degree Apprenticeships.  For the University of Chichester, this will mean cancelling their current Digital and planned Engineering, Digital Marketing and Business Degree Apprenticeships to small businesses, leaving potential apprentices without positions and local businesses understaffed and  underskilled.

Following changes to the way in which apprenticeships are funded, smaller, non-levy paying businesses (i.e. those with pay bills under £3 million) share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with government.  But in the latest funding allocation, the Gatwick Diamond has lost out to regions in the north, despite having a very high level of evidenced need for apprenticeships.

In a letter to the Rt. Hon. Anne Milton MP (Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills), Rosemary French OBE, Executive Director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, said:

“Over the past year, I have been promoting to businesses in the Gatwick Diamond the huge benefits of apprenticeships, in particular Degree Apprenticeships.  I have been working with Nescot, East Surrey and Crawley Colleges and the Universities of Brighton, Sussex and Chichester to stimulate demand among both non-levy and levy payers.  However, not one of the local universities has received funding in the latest government procurement exercise to allocate funding for non-levy payer apprenticeships.  The University of Chichester already has 60 Digital Degree Apprenticeships lined up and another 40 underway in local businesses.  New apprenticeships will not begin with small businesses, despite the area being desperate for digitally-qualified staff.  The University of Brighton has 70 apprentices already placed with smaller employers, all of whom will be told their training and employment relationship with the university must end.

“The funding debacle is not just about Degree Apprenticeships.  Apprenticeships at all levels will be severely curtailed as the Gatwick Diamond’s FE Colleges have received, on average, only half of the apprenticeship funding requested, despite clear evidence of need.  Colleges will therefore be forced to work only with larger, levy-paying employers, which will adversely impact the region’s smaller employers – a powerhouse of the local economy.”

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New deal for Manor Royal BID

The Manor Royal BID Company has signed a new deal with Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council aimed at supporting local businesses and boosting economic growth.

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The signing of the Manor Royal Deal comes on the back of the recent vote by businesses to renew the Manor Royal BID (Business Improvement District) and the successful Crawley Growth Programme bid to secure an investment package of £60m for the town.

A recent study revealed the increasing importance of the Manor Royal Business District that now provides over a quarter of all jobs in Crawley, more than 30% of all business rates for the town and a home to over 600 businesses.

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The study also highlighted the increasingly competitive environment in which Manor Royal operates and that close partnership working between businesses and the local authorities would be key to continued success.

The deal is the first of its kind in the county and sets out how the Manor Royal BID and the two councils will work together to plan and deliver additional services, including the Crawley Growth Programme, the new BID Business Plan, as well as respond to other opportunities as they arise.

“This Deal with the county and borough councils formalises what has become a very productive partnership over the past few years,” said Trevor Williams, Thales UK and Manor Royal BID Chair.

“The future programme is exciting but can only be achieved by clear and positive partnership between the BID and both councils. This is what the deal provides.”

Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said:

“The business community’s vote of confidence in the Manor Royal BID is testament to all the hard work that’s gone into the initiative in the last five years.

“Now we’re looking forward to continuing to help forge effective business partnerships in the Manor Royal Business District in the future.”

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council, said:

“Crawley Borough Council is committed to delivering better career prospects for local residents and to do that we need to maintain and develop Manor Royal’s status as one of the leading locations in the UK for doing business.

“The BID, in partnership with local councils, has already delivered much for the business district. This deal will enable us to take things to the next level.”

The three organisations are wasting no time and are already working together to plan the first projects to be delivered following the signing of the deal that will include new digital advertising signage and information boards, improvements to entranceways and significant investment in transport infrastructure.

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