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Coronavirus: Amazon and BBC back London COVID recovery fund for small business

A general view of part of one of Britain's largest Amazon warehouses in Dunfermline, Fife, as the online shopping giant gears up for the Christmas rush and the forthcoming Black Friday sales. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
One of Britain's largest Amazon warehouses in Dunfermline, Fife, UK. (Jane Barlow/PA via Getty)

Big corporations including Amazon (AMZN) and the BBC have thrown their weight behind a new fund aimed at helping London’s small businesses retrain staff for the post-COVID economy.

The Reskilling for the Recovery Fund was launched on Tuesday to award apprenticeship funding to London’s small businesses for new and existing staff.

Amazon, Avison Young, the BBC, City University, FTI Consulting, publisher Pearson (PSON.L), and the London boroughs of Haringey and Lambeth have all signed up to support the new fund. Each organisation is pledging their unspent apprenticeship levy to the fund, with £500,000 ($633,464) raised so far.

The fund is the brainchild of the London Progression Collaboration, a non-profit backed by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the Greater London Authority, and JP Morgan (JPM). The project aims to help get 1,000 low-skilled workers into higher paid jobs and help out-of-work Londoners find jobs.

Before COVID-19, small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) made up 99.8% of all London’s private sector businesses, and almost half of the capital’s jobs,” said Anna Ambrose, director of the London Progression Collaboration. “They’re also the businesses that have been hardest hit by the impact of this crisis.

“Skills are vital for business recovery – and yet two in three businesses last year struggled to find workers with the right skills. The levy which large employers pledge to the Reskilling for the Recovery Fund will allow SMEs to access fully-funded apprenticeships to secure the skills and training they need.”

READ MORE: How UK government is spending billions to support the economy

The apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017 to encourage businesses to invest in training for new staff and the next generation. Companies with a turnover of £3m or more must donate 0.5% of it into a fund they can then spend on apprenticeships. Firms can also donate up to 25% of the cash to small businesses.

“Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to get into a wide range of rewarding and valuable careers and provide the high-quality skills employers need and that will support our economic recovery,” education secretary Gavin Williamson said.

“I applaud this new campaign which will help support smaller businesses to access the skilled workforce they need to aid their recovery and will also make sure more people can kick start a new career.”

A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “At this time of real uncertainty, small businesses are looking for support in their supply chain to help with the added costs of doing business.

“Extra financial support through transferring Apprenticeship Levy funds to small firms will support many small businesses who look to take their business into recovery and hopefully to revival.”