Apprentice scheme set to be extended – but money to be used on wages not iPhones

Restrictions are in place at Richmondshire District Council's office at Mercury House.

A initiative supporting Richmondshire businesses to take on an apprentices looks set to be extended – with the condition that funding is to be used on wages not iPhones.

Officers at Richmondshire District Council are asking councillors to approve an additional £20,000 to the apprenticeship support scheme.

The initiative was launched in March 2018 with an allocation of £30,000.

So far, the scheme has seen 23 apprentices start work in the district in a range of fields, including hairdresssing, catering, vehicle repairs, business administration and marketing.

There is just over £670 left from the initial funding and council officers are recommending more funding is put into the scheme.

A report to councillors states: “Further expressions of interest from businesses are being received and therefore we are
requesting an additional £20k of funding to continue rolling the scheme forward.”

Under the current scheme, businesses can apply for up to £2,000 per apprentice with no match funding requirement, which can be used to support training costs, equipment or a combination of both up to the maximum amount allowed.

Officers say that applications for support have mainly included help towards the cost of the equipment required in order for the apprentice to undertake their apprenticeship, such as hair-dressing equipment which an apprentice would be expected to provide or tools for a motor vehicle apprentice, together with financial contributions towards course costs.

However, council staff say that when speaking to businesses the main barrier to employing an apprentice is the actual cost of their wages.

Officers say they have also noted that the scheme has been attracting an increasing number of applications from
businesses asking for money to purchase high value computer equipment and mobile technology such as iPhones and iMac’s which they say are “somewhat tenuously linked to the apprentice and the apprenticeship to be undertaken”.

In a bid to address this issue the council plans to alter the scheme to allow funding to be put towards the salary of the apprentice and to clarify that support for equipment is limited to that directly needed by the apprentice.

It has also been proposed that the maximum amount of funding available should be increased from £2,000 to £3,000 for apprentices taking level 4 or above qualifications.

The scheme will be discussed by the council’s corporate board next Tuesday.

For details of the meeting click here.