THE NEW apprenticeship levy is a ‘real opportunity’ for West Kent businesses to combat the brain drain to London, according to a Tonbridge-based educational specialist.
Managing Director of Runway Training Oliver Trailor, 31, was speaking after opening a new head office in the High Street. He said he was ‘optimistic’ for the area’s business sector, adding: “We suffer from a brain drain to London in West Kent. Aside from the draw of the city, it has more established training schemes.
“But if local businesses have the right career pathways set up – from apprentice to manager – I think it will really help the economy of Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and West Kent as a whole.
“The uncertainty of Brexit means we are going to need to start increasing our homegrown talent. So instead of buying in foreign workers or outside personnel, companies can train up 16 or 17 year olds and mould them.”
Thousands more opportunities are being offered to young people around the country as companies prepare for a new levy to come into force next month.
It requires all employers operating in the UK with an annual wage bill of more than £3million to invest in apprenticeships.
“I think there was a bit of cynicism around it at first. But if you have to pay the tax, you might as well make the best of it,” said Mr Trailor who has noticed a substantial increase in interest from businesses since the levy was announced.
“It seems that local companies are seeing the levy as a chance to harvest their own talent pool.”
Runway Training, who were previously based in Morley Road, support people into employment by providing a range of qualifications and apprenticeships in fields such as Digital Marketing and Health and Social Care.
They work with local employers such as AXA, Pepenbury and Hospice in the Weald, providing training onsite for their apprentices.
Established in 2008 by Mr Trailor, Runway Training currently have more than 200 apprentices and 14 teachers on their books. The founder described the business as ‘a smaller, more mobile version of West Kent College’.
But Mr Trailor revealed that with their new central premises at 190 High Street, Tonbridge, he hopes to more than double their enrolment to 500 in the next three to four years.
MP Tom Tugendhat, who officially opened the new head office on March 10, said: “I was delighted to open Runway Training’s new offices today. Oliver and his team do great work encouraging local youngsters to find the right career path for them.”