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SMMT launches fund to save at-risk automotive apprenticeship jobs

Mechanics working on a car

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has launched a new support programme that will provide up to £100,000 to cover the salaries of apprentices that are at risk of redundancy.

Operated by the SMMT’s Charitable Trust Fund, the Apprentice Support Programme is open to SME’s in the automotive sector that cannot afford to keep apprentices employed when the Government’s furlough scheme ends at the end of October.

News of the scheme came car retailers facing with insolvency as a result of the COVID-19 crisis were offered help to recover and preserve automotive sector jobs from the SMMT's new Safe Harbour scheme.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The UK Automotive industry is built on decades of craftsmanship, engineering excellence and innovation delivered by a highly skilled workforce – and its long-term recovery and growth will depend on retaining and developing this skills base. That’s why it’s so important that we do everything possible to ensure that we don’t let young talent slip through our hands as we strive to overcome the current crisis.

“Today’s apprentices are tomorrow’s leaders, and this scheme will help protect their jobs now so that they can help drive our future success.”

There are currently some 59,000 young people employed in apprenticeship positions across the sector. The SMMT believes investment in skill retention will help to secure a pipeline of top talent for the future, ensuring a line of succession and a return on investment for businesses that have already hired apprentices before the pandemic hit.

For an industry built on decades of innovation, developing a future generation of experts is crucial.

Gareth Jones, chairman of the SMMT Charitable Trust Fund, added: “As a former technical apprentice myself I can only imagine the devastating impact of losing your apprenticeship, particularly if you are close to completing your qualification. This timely and much needed initiative from the STCF will provide critical and well targeted support to ensure we retain some fantastic talent and potential in our industry.”

The scheme aims to secure existing young talent within their businesses, by covering their salaries either in full or in part for up to a year. The scheme is open to SMMT member companies and, to ensure the sector’s commitment to safeguarding these jobs, requires successful applicants to make a contribution towards the full £14,000 apprentice salary as business needs permit, in order to unlock a stipend as made available by the SMMT Charitable Trust Fund.

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