Wiltshire business leader calls on companies to embrace apprenticeships

By Nick Batten on 7 March, 2018

Debbie Williams, co-founder of Chippenham-based heating and plumbing company, John Williams Heating Services, has urged employers to “embrace apprenticeships” during National Apprenticeship Week 2018 (March 5 to 9).

According to Debbie, over the last year, the number of apprenticeships offered by employers has “dropped dramatically” – in spite of a government plan to increase the number of apprentices to three million by 2020.

One of the reasons cited for this drop has been the introduction last year of the new Apprenticeship Levy which – Debbie claims – many companies “still don’t understand.”

This scheme imposes a tax on large businesses with a wage bill of £3m or more who have to contribute a small percentage of that wage bill to the cost of funding apprenticeships nationwide. This levy apparently affects the “top two percent” of UK businesses.

Debbie, who is president of the Chippenham Chamber of Commerce, said: “Apprenticeships are a key part of our business and always have been. We currently have six apprentices and many of our staff started off their careers as apprentices.

“It’s a fantastic route to a career and we have a large skills gap in this country and relatively low productivity compared with many other nations.”

She continued: “This drop in apprenticeships may be due to the introduction of the levy which will take some time to bed in. However, I would urge any employer to explore apprenticeships through colleges and other providers in their area. Most businesses don’t pay the levy, but this does mean there is funding available across many sectors and disciplines to train people up in the necessary skills while they learn on the job.”

National Apprenticeship Week is in its 11th year and this year’s theme is “Apprenticeships Work”.  Events will take place nationwide to showcase the value apprenticeships can bring to the UK economy.

One of the recent apprentices at John Williams Heating Services is Debbie’s own daughter Georgina, who is now the office manager of the busy Wiltshire-based company.

Debbie explained: “Georgina has brought so much to us – from fine-tuning our processes through to teaching us many aspects of efficient administration. It’s not just about what we can do for an apprentice, it’s equally about what they can do for us.”

To find out more about the campaign visit https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/national-apprenticeship-week-2018-naw-2018

Pictured above: John Williams Heating Services apprentices (left to right) – Kieran Simon, Jack Upton, Dan Mayell, Jake Jones, Dan Jago.