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Steve Campion – Apprenticeships

“A perfect place that creates perfect opportunities”

Steve Campion, from the Exeter Chamber of Commerce outlines the changing face of apprenticeships and the opportunities this offers employers across the city and region


Is Exeter the perfect place to do business? A colleague of mine certainly thinks so.  He's new to the area and over the last few weeks has waxed lyrical about our city and as he says “the perfect canvas to achieve whatever you want”.  He goes on to explain that the proportions of the city, the diversity of its businesses, it's prominence in the local area, all create the perfect place to do business. His business is Apprenticeships.


Our Chamber reflects the depth and diversity that our city has to offer.  I am forever intrigued by the range of our members business interests and it really does put Exeter in a positive light.  The huge benefit of the diversity we have to offer is that the employment opportunities it creates for the young people of the city is very impressive.   Apprenticeships have been one of the routes that allow access to these opportunities for those leaving school, college or looking for a change in career direction.  They have never been so popular and the rise of Apprenticeship opportunities has continued to gather momentum over the last five years. For instance, 2015 saw Exeter College recruit over 700 Apprentices on behalf of the business community and that figure is set to rise again.  There is a strong tradition of high quality apprenticeship provision in our region with our statistics regularly topping regional tables in terms of success.


One of the resonating messages during last year’s election was the pledge from both of the main parties to grow Apprenticeships even further.   As the 3 million target of new Apprentices in 2020 was announced by the government, we waited for the details on how this would be achieved.  The picture is now much clearer and it’s obvious that the government mean business in meeting their pledge.  They are introducing a Levy on Apprenticeships which means any business whose PAYE exceeds £3 million per annum will be contributing 0.5% of the total to the Apprenticeship funding pot.  This is expected to generate well over £2 billion pounds to support a new generation of technical and professional training opportunities.  They have also set a target for all public sector organisations to employ over 2.3% of their staff in Apprenticeship roles. This will significantly increase the number of opportunities within the public sector for young people.  All of the qualifications are being redrafted to ensure the highest level of training and support is delivered by those engaged in delivering Apprenticeship provision.   The belief is that by putting businesses at the forefront of the development of training, it will ensure their business needs are met and in turn increase popularity of the programmes. The final piece of the jigsaw is the introduction of higher level Apprenticeships allowing people to work their way up to a degree without incurring the costs of university. 


Apprenticeships since the 1900’s have come a long way.  With the days of being paid in food and lodgings far behind us, the future of Apprenticeships looks exceedingly bright. For those young people who are looking to enter the world of work from school or gain high levels qualifications through a vocational route opportunity will abound.  If some of the challenges around implementation can be overcome, the opportunities and benefits that a vibrant Apprenticeship economy will bring, will add value for all.    It will certainly keep my colleague busy whilst he develops his offer to the city and beyond.   


Steve Campion is Vice Principal (Finance and Business Operations) at Exeter College and has been a board member of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce Council for two years