The logistics sector has triumphed in its hard-fought battle to receive funding towards HGV driver licence acquisition for apprentices.

In a BIS letter sent to chairman of the industry-led Trailblazers consortium Colin Snape, the government confirmed up to £4,900 in funding will be made available to train apprentices, with funding towards the cost of licence acquisition permitted within this sum.

A maximum of £3,000 can be accessed by all operators, regardless of size, assuming they also contribute £1,500 of their own money, with a further £500 allocated upon successful completion of the apprenticeship.

An additional payment of £900 will be made to operators taking on apprentices aged 16-18, with another £500 offered to smaller businesses with fewer than 50 employees. There is also extra funding available to cover English and Maths qualifications if required.

Snape told MT the decision was a “real winner” for industry as it has never been permitted in the past, and that the new Level 2 Trailblazer standards approved for industry would provide an excellent opportunity for operators.

“We now need to start work on the Level 3 and higher levels in earnest so that Apprenticeship Levy payers have apprenticeships ready to use in 2017 [when it comes into force],” he added.

Positive step

Sally Gilson, FTA skills development manager, said she was pleased common sense had prevailed: “Although the funding cap is lower than we hoped for, this is still a positive step by government to help industry grow the HGV drivers of the future."

She added that a usable driver apprenticeship is a crucial factor for larger operators affected by the new Apprenticeship Levy coming into play next April, as it will allow them to offset some of the large bills they face against approved training.

RHA director of policy Jack Semple said he had told transport minister Andrew Jones this morning that this apprenticeship could be a "game-changer" for the industry by encouraging more employer involvement and helping to train new drivers with transferable skills.

However, the key to its success, he added, will be if the funding from BIS is enough to encourage non-levy payers and SMEs to get involved, which the RHA would now be analysing.

Three logistics sector Trailblazer schemes have been approved by the government: LGV Driver, Supply Chain Operator and Warehouse Operative and will be officially launched at the end of the month.