Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his spring budget today and confirmed a number of new investments for the FE and skills sector.

They include a doubling of apprentice incentive payments for employers, a further boost to traineeships and a new “Help to Grow” scheme for small businesses to upskill.

FE Week has the key points:


  1. Cash incentives for employers to hire new apprentices doubled

Apprenticeship financial incentives were first introduced by Sunak in August and currently offer firms £2,000 to take on apprentices aged 16 to 24, while those that employ new apprentices aged 25 and over are paid £1,500.

The chancellor said today that the bonuses, set to end this month, will be extended for a further six months to September.

And any employers who hire a new apprentice between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 will receive £3,000 per new hire, regardless of the apprentice’s age.

This is on top of the £1,000 payment already provided for new apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan, meaning that some employers could receive £4,000 in total.


  1. £126m for traineeships

Sunak said the government will provide an additional £126 million in England for “high quality” work placements and training for 16- to 24-year-olds in the 2021/22 academic year.

This is hoped to attract a further 40,000 traineeship starts next year. Employers who provide trainees with work experience will continue to be funded at a rate of £1,000 per trainee.

It builds on the £111 million the chancellor set aside in 2020/21 to triple the number of traineeships.


  1. ‘Portable’ apprenticeships set to be launched

The government will introduce a £7 million fund from July 2021 to “help employers in England set up and expand portable apprenticeships”.

The budget document says this will enable people who need to work across multiple projects with different employers, such as in the TV and film industries, to “benefit from the high quality long-term training that an apprenticeship provides”.

Employers will be “invited to bring forward proposals here, and in particular the Creative Industries Council will be asked to do so in recognition of the potential benefits of this new approach for the creative sector”.

Trailed last Friday, the Treasury called this scheme “flexi-job” apprenticeships. The first of these are  expected to start in January 2022.


  1. ‘Help to Grow’ scheme for SMEs to upskill

The budget document says the government will offer a new UK-wide management programme to upskill 30,000 small and medium-sized enterprises over three years.

It states: “Developed in partnership with industry, the programme will combine a national curriculum delivered through business schools with practical case studies and mentoring from experienced business professionals.

“Over 12 weeks, and 90 per cent subsidised by government, this programme will equip SMEs with the tools to grow their businesses and thrive.”

The budget’s costing document shows the government has set aside £60 million for this scheme in 2021-22 and then £75 million for 2022-23.

It is unclear at this stage what government department will be responsible for this scheme.

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