Press Story

A new support service, the SkillsBoost project, is launching to enable small businesses in vital sectors across the Liverpool City Region and Blackpool to boost the skills of their workforce by creating new apprenticeships.

The North West faces an acute skills challenge which is holding back the region’s economic growth. Analysis by the LPC shows that the number of apprenticeship starts across the North West has fallen by 21 per cent over the past three years, with 12,000 fewer learners enrolling onto apprenticeships in 2020/21 than in 2018/19. With only the North East performing worse, the North West also has the lowest percentage of 16-64-year-olds in work - with 26 people in every 100 out of work.

The apprenticeship pilot will focus on supporting businesses that haven’t taken on an apprentice in the last two years across key sectors for the region – including digital, manufacturing, social care and construction. Small employers are entitled to a 95 per cent discount on the cost of an apprenticeship, but they require significant practical support to successfully navigate the apprenticeship system and create high-quality opportunities, which is what the Skills Boost project will deliver.

Supported by the Department for Education, the service will be free for businesses to access. It will be delivered by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), building on the notable success of its London-based apprenticeship creation project the London Progression Collaboration. The footprint of the project covers seven local authorities, including Blackpool, Knowsley and Liverpool – three of England’s five most deprived areas.

Anna Ambrose, LPC director, said:

“There are tens of thousands of people without work across Merseyside and Blackpool, and many more stuck in low-paid or unstable work. Meanwhile, employers in vital sectors face challenges finding the skills they need for their businesses to thrive.

“Working with local partners, this project has huge potential to support employers across the region, as well as to create careers for residents, giving them new life opportunities and supporting the local economy.

Steve Rotherham, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said:

“For far too long, too many people in our area have been held back from fulfilling their true potential – not by a lack of talent but a lack of opportunity. Thanks to devolution, we’re putting that right.

“Over the last five years, we’ve created more than 10,000 jobs and 7,000 apprenticeships through programmes like my Young Person’s Guarantee, which promises a job, apprenticeship or training opportunity to every young person in our area out of work for more than six months.

“We’ve launched Be More, my award-winning UCAS-style career and apprenticeship portal, which has recently been refreshed into a new AI-powered app, and we’ve helped dozens of businesses sign up to my Fair Employment Charter – which commits businesses of all sizes to support training and development opportunities.

“All of these projects are steps on a much bigger journey to better connect our residents to local employers, to help bridge the skills gaps we’ve identified in our area and, ultimately, unlock more growth. I’m looking forward to seeing how the SkillsBoost programme can help us to build on the progress we’ve made so far and make an even bigger difference to young people’s lives.”

Councillor Lynn Williams, Blackpool Council Leader said:

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Blackpool, our residents and small- and medium-sized employers.

“Through our regeneration projects we have been ensuring that local residents receive the benefits and opportunities that multi-million pound investment brings. This is a priority for us and our focus on social value has already been particularly successful in creating apprenticeships for our residents. This pilot goes hand in hand with the good work that has already been done and will be a further boost for local businesses and those seeking employment.

“It is a great opportunity for local employers who haven’t recently engaged with apprenticeships to see the benefits that they are bring. The project is specifically focused on the manufacturing, construction and adult social care sectors.“