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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Reskilling for the Recovery - small business recovery fund

Education Secretary welcomes new fund aiming to create hundreds of new apprenticeships for SMEs in the capital and kickstart the recovery

Small businesses have been hardest hit by the impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown with some forecasts suggesting one in five could collapse due to the crisis. Today (Tuesday) a campaign has been launched to secure further financial support for a new Reskilling for the Recovery Fund to help small firms in the capital recover by paying for apprenticeship training for new and existing staff.

Big businesses including Amazon, the BBC, Pearson and Avison Young have already pledged £500,000 to kickstart the new fund.

The campaign is calling on London’s large employers to pledge their unspent apprenticeship levy to the fund, so it can be transferred to London’s small businesses who need it to support their recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

The campaign, launched by the  London Progression Collaboration, has been supported by the education secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, who said he “applauded” the initiative and described apprenticeships as a “brilliant way” to help smaller businesses after the pandemic.:

The Reskilling for the Recovery Fund will prioritise support for the capital’s small businesses in the hardest hit sectors including retail, hospitality and construction.

The London Progression Collaboration argues that the fund will also help create vital opportunities for low-paid Londoners to progress their careers and boost their incomes, after bearing the brunt of Covid-19’s impact on jobs.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, small businesses faced a significant skills gap. The Open University reported that a staggering two thirds of employers struggled to find workers with the right skills. The London Progression Collaboration argues that apprenticeships and training will be vital to filling this gap and boosting the recovery for small businesses.

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, said:

“These are challenging times and we recognise the significant impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on businesses and individuals across the country.

“Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to get into a wide range of rewarding and valuable careers and provide the high-quality skills employers need and that will support our economic recovery.

“I applaud this new campaign which will help support smaller businesses to access the skilled workforce they need to aid their recovery and will also make sure more people can kick start a new career.”

Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said:

“At Amazon we are proud to support small businesses, which make up more than half of all products sold on Amazon stores. We know that across London many have found new ways to serve customers and support their local communities in this challenging time. We want to back the wider small business community through this apprenticeship levy transfer fund, ensuring businesses are able to access new talent and give people the opportunities to succeed in the digital age, regardless of their background.”

Pledging their support to the fund, Anne E Ashworth, Head of Employee Apprenticeships at Pearson, said:

“Pearson is committed to 'learning for life' and during these unprecedented times, we recognise that we can add huge value to small businesses in their ability to address their skills gaps and recover.  Apprenticeships also support Londoners to develop their employability skills and progress into good quality jobs.

“We are excited to be part of this programme to support the economic recovery of London and to encourage businesses to take on apprenticeships.  This is a vital part of our apprenticeship strategy as an employer and compliments the work we are already doing with several London companies and of course within our own business.”

A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses London Region said:

“At this time of real uncertainty, small businesses are looking for support in their supply chain to help with the added costs of doing business. Extra financial support through transferring Apprenticeship Levy funds to small firms will support many small businesses who look to take their business into recovery and hopefully to revival.”

Anna Ambrose, Director of the London Progression Collaboration said:

“Before Covid-19, small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) made up 99.8 per cent of all London’s private sector businesses, and almost half of the capital’s jobs. They’re also the businesses that have been hardest hit by the impact of this crisis.

“Skills are vital for business recovery – and yet two in three businesses last year struggled to find workers with the right skills. The levy which large employers pledge to the Reskilling for the Recovery Fund will allow SMEs to access fully-funded apprenticeships to secure the skills and training they need.

“We’re proud to be bringing together the business community to support SMEs, and to create opportunities for Londoners to get back into good jobs.”

The London Progression Collaboration is keen to hear from more London-based employers who can commit unspent levy funds to the Reskilling for the Recovery Fund. Go to to find out more.


  1. The following organisations have pledged unspent apprenticeship levy funds to the campaign: Amazon, Avison Young, the BBC, City University, FTI Consulting and Pearson, plus the London boroughs of Haringey and Lambeth. The campaign also has the support of the Federation of Small Businesses and Catch 22.
  2. The London Progression Collaboration is a business support service aimed at increasing apprenticeships in the capital, and is a partnership between the think tank IPPR, the Greater London Authority and the JP Morgan Foundation. The work is delivered by a matrix team of IPPR and GLA staff, led by London Progression Collaboration director Anna Ambrose.         
  3. The LPC’s core offer to employers encompasses:
    • Levy-transfer brokerage and support, matching large employers with SMEs and supporting both parties throughout the process
    • End-to-end apprenticeship advice and support, from strategic advice to hands-on practical support
    • Access to its knowledge transfer network to share best practice.
  4. Find out more about the London Progression Collaboration at
  5. The apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017. Employers with a wage bill over £3 million pay 0.5 per cent into the levy, which they can then spend on the training and assessment costs of apprentices.
  6. Levy-paying businesses can also transfer up to 25 per cent of their apprenticeship levy funds to another business, such as an SME in their supply chain or local area.
  7. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.