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Idea Exchange: Bradford is turning the apprenticeship levy to its advantage

Tina Lafferty
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Bradford City MDC is taking positive steps forward to invest in employment and skills through the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.


  • Project: The Learning and Development Academy
  • Timescale: Launched September 2017 - ongoing
  • Cost to authority: Approx. £1.5m per year moved to the levy to fund apprenticeship qualifications
  • Number of staff working on project: Two strategic officers have lead responsibility; apprenticeship team comprises one senior officer and two officers
  • Outcomes: (Projected) Up to 500 apprenticeships employed per year; 30% of these to be BME; 10% to be people with disabilities ;5% other vulnerable groups; 100 traineeship opportunities for vulnerable young people; 500 work placements; An apprenticeship or traineeship opportunity for every young person leaving the authority’s care
  • Officer contact details: Tina Lafferty

In addition to looking at how we provide an inclusive apprenticeship offer across our own workforce, we are building links with organisations across the district so we can offer ‘Team Bradford’ apprenticeship opportunities that will give apprentices the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge across a range of organisations and service areas.

The apprenticeship reforms have placed new responsibilities on local authorities to work towards a target of 2.3% of their workforce as apprentices.

From April 2017, the apprenticeship levy required all large organisations to pay 0.5% of its wage bill into a levy. The levy fund is to be used to pay for apprentice qualifications. For Bradford this means an annual apprenticeship levy fund of around £1.5m.

Bradford views this as a great opportunity to invest in employment and skills development and we have created a Learning and Development Academy, which deals almost exclusively with apprenticeships.

The council’s statutory target of 2.3% equates to approximately 230 apprentices per year, but we have set ourselves the task of employing up to 500 apprentices per year. In addition to this, the council plans to work in partnership with other local public sector employers, and the private and voluntary sectors to create an apprenticeship programme that provides apprenticeship opportunities across the district. This will give apprentices a good spread of experience across a range of organisations or service areas, which will strengthen their career development opportunities.

The council has set targets to ensure the apprenticeship offer remains inclusive. The aim is that at least 10% of apprentices will have special educational needs or disabilities; 30% will be from ethnic minorities; and 5% will be from other vulnerable groups. As well as this, the council will make every effort to offer an apprenticeship or traineeship to every looked-after young person in Bradford.

Kersten England, our chief executive, sees the apprenticeship levy as a great opportunity for the council. She says: “In the country’s youngest city, talented, enthusiastic, hard-working, young people with ideas, energy and enterprise are vital to the future success not just of the council, but of Bradford as a place.”

To achieve the target of up to 500 apprenticeships per year the authority has agreed most of its vacancies below a certain band will become apprenticeship vacancies. This means the council will be able to offer apprenticeship opportunities across the whole range of services it provides. Apprenticeships may range from intermediate (level two) through to a degree apprenticeship (level seven), and the offer could range from road workers to chartered legal executives.

The council has agreed to pay a percentage of the salary for the job role instead of the £3.50 national minimum apprenticeship rate. This means that a 16-17 year old will be paid 55% of the going rate of the job during their first year, with apprentices aged 18 and above earning 80%. In doing this Bradford is showcasing its investment in apprenticeships, and its commitment to improving employment and skills levels across the district. The council is also looking to accommodate 100 trainee places for vulnerable 16-18 year olds to help them to progress into an apprenticeship opportunity, as well as offering work experience placements.

The council knows it won’t be able to offer everyone a permanent job at the end of their apprenticeship and we are working with training providers and specialist organisations to ensure that every apprentice has the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need to progress successfully, whether they move on to a higher level apprenticeship, cross over to academic study, or gain employment.

By taking full advantage of the apprenticeship levy Bradford will create hundreds of opportunities for local people; increase work opportunities for people with disabilities; establish district-wide apprenticeship opportunities that strengthen cross-organisational working and provide excellent development opportunities; address its own aging workforce; spread the word about the fantastic things that Bradford does for its communities; provide trained and qualified workers for local employers to recruit; and up-skill its own staff to support succession planning and talent management.

Tina Lafferty, head of organisation and workforce development, Bradford City MDC




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