SMALL and medium sized businesses are being offered a share of the money Southampton City Council has set aside under the apprenticeship levy.

Since 2016, big employers have been required to pay 0.5 per cent of their wage bill into a fund from which they can train apprentices.

But under reforms introduced in April, they have been allowed to transfer up to a quarter of their levy funds to other employers.

Southampton’s council says it wants to use the opportunity to help smaller businesses benefit from apprenticeships.

“Following government reforms, we’re able to work with other organisations in the city to support them to take on new apprentices and develop existing employees,” the authority said.

Money from the council’s levy pot can be used to provide training and professional qualifications to new or existing employees of other organisations.

Only organisations based in the Southampton area can apply for the funding and it must be used for apprenticeship training, not for salary or expenses such as travel.

“This funding could be worth thousands of pounds to a business, but more importantly offers exceptional long-term growth benefits,” the council said.

“This opportunity is relevant to all organisations, with the vast range of apprenticeship training programmes available, such as business administration, payroll, team leading and management and many other specialist programmes, meaning there will be a suitable programme for your business.

“We will give priority to applications from organisations supporting council objectives around health and social care, children’s care and education, a green economy and a city of culture.”

The council’s cabinet member for lifelong learning, Cllr Darren Paffey, said: “The levy transfer scheme provides vital support for small to medium sized businesses considering providing apprenticeships for new or existing staff members.

“Apprenticeships are an ideal way of developing your career, combining work-based experience with training.

“Apprentices gain nationally recognised qualifications, whilst earning a salary. Employers get access to local talent by taking on apprentices or can improve the skills of an existing employee by offering them an apprenticeship.”

Applications for the funds have to be returned by August 20.

The Solent Apprenticeship Hub, part-funded by the European Social Fund, offers impartial advice on the issue and can be contacted at

The apprenticeship levy applies to employers with an annual wage bill of £3million or more.

The 0.5 per cent levy on the organisation’s entire wage bill is kept in a separate fund, topped up with a 10 per cent government addition to each monthly payment.

But there have been fears that the scheme has run into a funding crisis. Some training providers have turning away small and medium sized businesses because there has not been enough money left over once large employers have taken back their entitlement.

The National Audit Office has warned that the scheme is unlikely to reach its target of recruiting three million apprentices by 2020 and has questioned the long-term sustainability of the scheme.