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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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Furniture Village opens its doors in Crawley’s County Oak Retail Park

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Crawley welcomes Furniture Village who will open a brand-new store in County Oak retail park this Boxing Day.

The new location offers a Carpetright concession, providing a one-stop-shop for customers looking to update their homes.

Visitors to the new Furniture Village store will be invited to create their ‘home in one’, by exploring collections for every room of the house, from sofas to beds to dining.

Charlie Harrison, Commercial Director at Furniture Village, comments:

“With much of the UK under lockdown, I’m delighted we’ve been able to open our new store in Crawley. County Oak is a fantastic shopping destination and the ideal choice for Furniture Village.

“It’s been a challenging year for everyone, but I am incredibly proud of the Furniture Village team which continues to offer industry-leading quality, choice and service. As well as Family Retailer of the Year, we’ve also been awarded National Bed Retailer of the Year so I’m particularly looking forward to welcoming customers to our new bed department.”

The store will see a team of 11 expert sales consultants offering valuable insights and advice to customers, all made possible thanks to enhanced Covid-19 safety measures.

These include temperature checks, PPE for all staff and hand sanitisation stations, along with an appointment booking system which can be accessed via the website.

Charlie Harrison, Commercial Director at Furniture Village, adds:

“Customer safety is still, and will continue to be, a priority for us. The feedback from all of our existing stores continues to be overwhelmingly positive, with the appointment booking system providing reassurance and exceptional service for customers.”

The store will open at 9am on Saturday 26th December 2020. Opening offers include Sale discounts of up to 50% plus an additional £50 off every £500 spent.

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