The new apprenticeship levy represents ‘infinite possibilities’ for employers to grow their companies, business leaders have heard.

Dozens of people, representing both large and small businesses, attended Teesside University’s ‘Get Ready for the Levy’ event where they heard from industry leaders about the best way to maximise the benefits of the apprenticeship levy.

Starting this month all businesses with a wage bill of more than £3 million are required to invest in apprenticeships by paying into the levy.

Businesses of all sizes can access funds from the levy to train and develop their employees.

Teesside University has developed a range of degree apprenticeships for a variety of professions including Chartered Manager, Digital and Technology Solutions Professional, Embedded Electronic Systems Design Engineer, Health Assistant Practitioner and Laboratory Scientist, which can be funded via the apprenticeship levy.

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships (HDAs) offer employees a chance to earn while they learn and, unlike traditional apprenticeships, carry no age restrictions.

Mike Matthews MBE, president of the North East Chamber of Commerce and managing director of car parts manufacturer Nifco, was the keynote speaker at the event and spoke about how apprenticeships played a key part in skills development and productivity in the North East.

With an ageing population, it is vital for companies to continue to educate their workforce to avoid losing valuable skills when employees retire, he said.

He added: “We have worked with Teesside University on a number of programmes to develop our employees’ skills and I’m extremely proud of the relationship I have with the University.

“If you want to be a successful company, you need to develop people and build skills.”

Also, speaking at the event was George Ritchie MBE, chair of North East Apprenticeship Ambassadors and a member of National Apprenticeship Ambassadors and former senior vice-president for HR at Sembcorp.

He said it is important for employers to recognise the valuable opportunity which the apprenticeship levy presented.

It is particularly important for SMEs to use the funds from the apprenticeship levy to train employees, he added.

He said: “For any employers, there are infinite possibilities for you to stimulate your company’s growth for the future.

“Companies should be looking five years ahead and thinking about what skills they need and what they need to know.

“This is going to make a major difference to the training of UK PLC.”

Laura Woods, Director of The Forge, Teesside University’s business hub, said: “Higher and degree apprenticeships are a great route to the high-level qualifications and workplace skills that make a difference to performance.

“Our apprenticeship team can help employers make the most of apprenticeship opportunities and funding to get the skills they need.”

For more information on apprenticeships at Teesside University visit