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Tag Archive: funding

  1. Apprenticeship Reform: Where are we now?

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    In 2015 the Department for Education set out its vision for English Apprenticeships following a review into the system, to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships through a transformational programme of change. Whilst apprenticeships were successful, the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships found a number of challenges that we needed to address if we wanted to improve their quality and quantity. 

    It found that the quality of apprenticeship training needed to be improved and relevant to meet the needs of the employer. Employer investment and sustainable funding for apprenticeships must be secured and the accessibility of these apprenticeships also needs to be improved, supporting the vulnerable. Ultimately we needed more apprenticeships overall to meet the skills gap. 

    The Apprenticeship Reform Programme had four main objectives; to meet the skills needs of the employers, to create progression for apprentices, to widen participation and social mobility in apprenticeships and to create more quality apprenticeships.  

    According to the latest 2021 report on the programme as it comes to an end, three million apprenticeships had been entered into in England between 2015 and 2020. This latest report highlights how successful the Programme has been and outlines plans for 2021 and beyond. 

    On quality, their achievement rate for apprenticeship standards has gone up by 12%. But there is a lot more to do. To meet this objective, there is new employer and provider guidance and more self-assessment tools. There’s also a new national online Apprenticeship Workforce Development programme for training providers. The government is also implementing a new accountability approach to ensure high-quality assurance for all those registered to deliver training. 

    Last March the programme faced its biggest challenge yet with the Covid-19 pandemic. Apprenticeship numbers dropped due to the impact of national lockdowns, with staff on furlough, falls in vacancies and some employment failure. In response to this, the government introduced flexibilities and adaptations to enable apprenticeships to continue and all learners to start and complete their apprenticeship. Support was also provided to businesses, offering £1,500 in grants for every apprentice they hire, rising to £2000 if the new apprentice was under the age of 25. This was further increased to £3000. 

    We’ve always looked to employ apprentices within the business but due to our significant growth, we’re now looking to grow and employ even more. There’s a national skills shortage with more people retiring than entering the industry. So apprentices can help meet this need and improve local skills, helping more young people into the industry. We also help by working with local colleges to provide support, placements and apprenticeships to their students. 

    The Apprenticeship Reform Programme has been completed now but the focus now is on raising quality and extending accessibility of apprenticeships to employers in all sectors. The future of the programme remains responsive to the needs of the employers and apprentices through the new objectives. The government will now concentrate on embedding the reforms it has made and providing the market with sufficient stability to adjust to the new models of apprenticeships funding, delivery, and quality assurance. 

    The future programme will continue with a focus on four key benefits; to support employers of all sizes to benefit from high-quality apprenticeships that are relevant and responsive, drive up the quality of apprenticeships, support progression into sustainable employment and ensure apprenticeships are accessible to individuals at all stages of their career. This will hopefully help the country recover more quickly from the pandemic and help provide a solution to the skills shortage. 

  2. Radical rail reforms launched by the government

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    The Railway sector is on track for the biggest shake-up to its model since the 90s after Whitehall recognised the need for a complete overhaul. After years of anticipation, challenges and delays, it pledges to ‘fix the system’ and deliver a better service for passengers across the country. The government’s white paper presents a brand new vision for the country’s rail network.

    Key takeaways from the white paper included the creation of a new body, Great British Railways (GBR). This is set to absorb existing organisations like Network Rail and bring the entire system together, similar to the Transport for London model in the capital. Bringing everything under one umbrella is ambitious but welcome, various elements such as timetables and fares are vastly different wherever you are in the country and this will help improve the system and provide consistency for passengers. 

    Speaking of fares, they’re set to be ‘simplified’ and designed for ‘for the passenger’. Prices are constantly rising and private franchises have failed for a number of years in delivering efficiency. New plans will see fares being set centrally and getting rid of thousands of existing, and somewhat complex pricing combinations. However, the problem is that there’s no guarantee this change will be cheaper. 

    Coinciding with a change in the way people work following the pandemic, one of the biggest changes will be flexible tickets for those who are moving to hybrid working. This will be a welcome change for those making the switch to this new way of working. 

    Breaking away from rail franchising, the government outlined that the new system will be run by GBR who will then pay each operator to run their services. So passengers won’t see any name changes but they will hopefully see an improvement in service. Bonuses will be given to companies who fulfil certain criteria such as punctuality and cleanliness. 

    Finally, aligning to the UK’s climate targets, the government plans to decarbonise the rail network over the next 30 years. A bigger, more detailed ‘environmental plan’ will be published in 2022 highlighting how it plans to set out this change. These changes will be welcome news to commuters across the country, who have been dealing with delays, price increases and overcrowding for years. Hopefully with a more central body holding companies to account, services will improve significantly. 

    We’re able to provide a vast range of services for this sector, from modular and portable staff buildings through to equipment stores.

    Want to see our past case studies? Head over to our case studies page.

  3. Rail reforms from the government “need more detail”

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    After the government launched its ‘once-in-a-generation’ plan to reform the UK’s railways, a parliamentary watchdog has reported that the overhaul lacks detail and urgency. It has also questioned whether the government has the capacity to deliver the rail reforms. 

    The railway sector was set for the biggest shake-up to its model since the 90s after the government pledged to ‘fix the system’ and ‘deliver a better service for passengers’ in their white paper. It presented a brand new vision for the country’s rail network, but can it deliver?

    Key takeaways included; the creation of a new body, Great British Railways (GBR), simplified fares and flexible tickets, a break away from rail franchising and a decarbonised rail network. The Institute for Government, a leading think tank working to make Government more effective and efficient, has provided analysis of the white paper. It has highlighted that the rail reforms risk being undermined by lack of detail and urgency. As well as a lack of plan to bring people back after the pandemic. 

    The public accounts committee has also said that while they see the Department for Transport are aware of the issues surrounding the country’s rail network, it is worried that they don’t have the capacity to deliver and don’t understand just how much work is needed to improve the service. The GBR is set to oversee both train and track infrastructure and pay private companies to run the services on strict contracts. 

    However the parliamentary report says that while the white paper is a great first step, its implementation carries a lot of risk and has the potential to overpromise and under deliver. The department has stated that their proposals will ensure “greater value for money” and “a better deal for passengers” but the committee has called for not just an improvement to current rail services, but a more aligned service with other modes of public transport. 

    If it is serious in its plan to decarbonise the railway, we need to reduce those using cars and join the rail network up with local buses, trams and underground services. Without a better link up, there’s a risk of people using cars to get to the railway which could jeopardise the government’s net zero targets. 

    While it’s a welcome plan and a good first step, those around the government, holding them to account, want to see a lot more detail around implementation and timelines to try and get a sense of how it’s going to work. They want to see strategic long-term plans and targets for how this new ‘umbrella’ system will work and also how it will be held to account if it doesn’t go as planned for passengers. They also want a detailed plan and timeline for how the government plans to transition from the current model and clarify the scope of the GBR’s independence. This will ultimately help maintain both public and political confidence in the GBR during the transition and for the long term.

    Need a refresher on what the reforms are? Head over to our last blog. Rail reforms from the government “need more detail” | Thurston Group

  4. Thirty towns are set to receive over £700 million in funding

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    Funding has been announced by the government for 30 towns across England to boost their local economies, create jobs and new homes, and improve local skills. Helping these communities “build back better” from the pandemic according to a release issued by the government.

    Each of the towns will be sharing over £700 million as part of the government’s multi-billion levelling up programme. With the towns ranging from seaside towns like Hartlepool to historic towns like Bedford and Bishop Auckland. The funding will also include renovations to various attractions helping to boost the cultural and tourism offers from each of the towns. Sustainability will be at the heart of most of these schemes with greener transport infrastructure. This will include new cycle paths and pedestrian walkways to help connect areas in the greenest way. 

    Not only will this help grow local economies, it will also carve out brand new opportunities. Helping to breathe new life into neglected or vacant spaces by creating vibrant new spaces for businesses, community events or much needed new homes. Creating thousands of jobs and investing in opportunities to improve skills, vocational training hubs will help support high-skilled and higher paid jobs in the areas.

    These are welcome plans, especially the funding going into investment in opportunities to improve skills for people in towns across England. The construction and manufacturing industries are facing a skills shortage with more skillers workers retiring than entering so investment into new training will certainly boost numbers. In turn this will boost local businesses by bringing in a fresh wave of skills and innovation, which the industry desperately needs. 

    Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said, “We are levelling up towns and cities across the country by building stronger and more resilient local economies, boosting prosperity and opportunity in our communities, and helping them build back better from the pandemic. Today I am announcing new town deals in 30 areas, backed by over £725 million investment from the Towns Fund. This will support locally-led projects to transform disused buildings and public spaces, deliver new green transport and create new opportunities for people to develop new skills. This is a boost for communities and businesses across England.”


  5. £3 billion in funding for our NHS

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    A £3 billion hospital building programme was launched by the Health Secretary back in 2019. This new scheme proposed around 40 new hospitals built across England over the next ten years. This new investment also came in addition to the £33.9 billion increase in cash funding for the day-to-day running of the NHS being delivered by the government over the next five years. But what did it mean for the sector? And how did the pandemic impact the programme?

    I’m sure when this programme was announced the government didn’t account for a worldwide pandemic. Projects all over a variety of sectors had to slow down or stop all together. However, after over 15 months of ups and downs, things do seem to be picking up across the country. As we start to come out of the pandemic, this will be a big project for the government to get back to as part of their build back better pledges.  

    Six of the hospitals were already given the go-ahead, and a further twenty one new build projects, including thirty four new hospitals, were due to receive seed funding to kick start their schemes. 

    Some of the hospitals receiving funding include North Manchester General Hospital, Royal Preston Hospital, Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. 

    The NHS has needed more investment for years and it’s great that we’re finally seeing a focus on investment. For years we’ve seen a short-term approach to NHS buildings and infrastructure, with repairs taking too long and hospitals not being able to treat patients because they’re underfunded and don’t have the capacity to deal with everyone coming in. 

    These plans were welcomed by a sector that hasn’t seen a lot of investment, though there was some confusion from the Trusts around how the funding would be divided up and where it was going. The government will hope that this more strategic approach helps improve the health infrastructure and facilities for the NHS over the long-term. Ultimately helping to provide more resources for staff, increase capacity for patients and help deliver better facilities and world-leading care for patients. 

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The dedication and tireless efforts of our nurses, doctors and all healthcare workers have kept the NHS open throughout this pandemic. But no matter what this virus throws at us, we are determined to build back better and deliver the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. From Morpeth to Milton Keynes, we are building 40 new hospitals across England to level up our NHS so more people have top-class healthcare services in their local area.”

    You can find out how we can provide solutions for the NHS, here.

  6. Thurston Group attends Place North West’s Meet the Authorities event

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    Some of the team attended Place North West’s in person Meet the Authorities: Public-Private Partnerships event last week. Discussing how a strong economic recovery will depend on successful public-private partnerships.  

    Taking place safely in person at the Lowry Hotel with limited numbers, ‘Meet the Authorities’ was a mix of presentations and panels with networking opportunities. Main discussions formed around how developers and investors can best work with councils and whether planning authorities have the resource to handle significant developments. It also looked at government funding sources and other initiatives that will set the agenda in the next few years.

    The first presentation and panel came from Phil Mayall, Board Director at Muse Developments, Kevin Riley, Director at WSP, Emma Birkett, Heritage Director at Rochdale Development Agency, Barry Roberts, Managing Director – North West at Morgan Sindall Construction and Roger Frith, Head of Strategic Regeneration and Development at Oldham Council. 

    While the second presentation and panel discussion featured a range of speakers. From Mark McNamee, Managing Director at Cityheart and Richard Laming, Senior Director at Turley to Darren Jones, Development Director at Nikal, and Alan Evans, Director of Regeneration and Place at Wirral Council. 

    Gemma Darroch, our Business Development Director, enjoyed attending the event and found it insightful. She said, “As a Wirral resident myself I was particularly interested to hear about the regeneration plans from Alan Evans, at Wirral Council in partnership with Muse and Peel Developments. It was interesting to find out how placemaking and mixed use development are at the heart of their regeneration plans.”

  7. Councils given funding to help with homelessness

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    The Government will provide up to £211.6 million in funding for councils across England to deliver over 2,700 Move-On homes. Their mission is to significantly reduce homelessness and provide support services so they don’t end up back on the street.  A ‘Move-On’ home is temporary accommodation and support. It’s made available to occupants as a stepping stone to prepare rough sleepers for fully independent living. 

    The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has invited councils, who work closely with local stakeholders including charities, local authorities and social housing providers, to submit proposals and bids for the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) up until 2024 and secure funding to bring a reduction in homelessness in their area. 

    Last October they announced funding for local partners to deliver the first year of RSAP. More than 3,000 new ‘Move On’ homes for rough sleepers across the country were approved and backed by a Government investment of more than £150 million. 

    Not only is the scheme for new build homes, it’s also for refurbishment, regeneration, private sector leasing and lease and repair. To ensure these homes remain ‘Move On’ homes, rather than long-term housing, tenancies will only be awarded for a maximum duration of up to two years. This means that they will always be available for the homeless, if necessary, and the support provided will help them move into more permanent homes. 

    Though this is a welcome idea and will help to get people off the streets and into safety. There lies the issue of long-term houses and whether there are enough. We simply aren’t building enough homes per year to meet demand. And despite the planning reforms, it’s still a lengthy process which means it can take between three and five years for a brand new development to be completed. 

    We’re able to provide a high-quality modular solution for both temporary and permanent housing, up to 50 per cent quicker than traditionally built homes. We can build pop-up homes in vacant spots while councils and developers go through the planning process to get people into ‘Meanwhile Homes’. Or we can build a more permanent development to reduce housing waiting lists.

    Do you need help building homes in your area? Reach out and see how we can help.