Louise Ward has been the driving force behind the West Midlands Combined Authority’s £32.7 million Apprenticeship Levy Fund, and has been responsible for its success in bringing in levy donations from large employers across all sectors to fund apprenticeship training costs within the West Midlands for hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses.
To date, 725 SMEs and more than 2,280 people have benefited from the fund.
Louise was nominated by her own colleagues, who talked about her ‘make it happen’ attitude and unshakeable focus, which has meant thousands of young people and adults in the region have been trained in relevant skills.
The awards are being driven by the HomeServe Foundation, the charity arm of Walsall-based HomeServe, to recognise organisations or individuals’ contributions to furthering future skills and apprenticeships in the UK.
Helen Booth, director of the HomeServe Foundation, said: “You come across people in life that really make a difference. Louise is one of those people.
“Helping to build a culture that values vocational training, like computer coding, or trades skills, like plumbing, is vital if we’re going to have the skills we need in the future.
“We want to recognise and celebrate all those, like Louise, who are helping Britain build back better by creating jobs and new opportunities through apprenticeships.”
Louise said: “I am delighted to accept this Future Skills Award. Apprentices make a vital contribution to the West Midlands' economy. As the region recovers from the pandemic, we’re seeing a huge appetite to bring in more ambitious, talented individuals to drive the future needs of a variety of sectors, including construction, digital and healthcare. Apprenticeships are a great way for anyone aged 16 and over to learn while they’re earning.
“As well as apprenticeship training, here at the WMCA we have devolved powers to support individuals to access thousands of programmes with our local colleges and training providers through our Adult Education Budget; right from basic skills, to retraining for a career change, to access higher level qualifications and ultimately gain better prospects for sustainable employment.”
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I would like to congratulate Louise on winning the Future Skills Award. Thanks to her dedicated work with large employers, thousands of apprentices are learning new skills and gaining valuable qualifications while working, with hundreds of local SMEs taking on staff they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford.
“Young people especially have been benefiting from the levy transfer scheme with employer partners, which is incredibly important given they have been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for many people to develop new skills, with lots of other training routes available. Levelling up to support our residents is key to driving social mobility and better employment prospects.”
Earlier recipients of the award include former apprentice turned Aston Martin motor company chief Andy Palmer and leaders in the field of apprenticeships, including Amazing Apprenticeships, founded by Anna Morrison CBE, as well as employers driving apprenticeship growth, including Paragon Customer Communications.
The award is now open for other individuals and businesses, both large and small, are supporting the growth of future skills across every industry in the UK. Details are available at homeservefoundation.com/future-skills-award