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Did you know that it's never been more cost effective to employ apprentices following a recent relaxation in Employer NI contributions for anybody on an apprenticeship between the ages of 21 and 25?

The new relief came into force from 6th April and could save an employer of an apprentice earning £10,000 p.a. approx. £244, and an employer of an apprentice earning £15,000 p.a. approx. £947. The good news is that this ruling applies not only to the recruitment of new staff on an apprenticeship scheme but to existing staff who are given the opportunity to take the apprenticeship route. With some government funding still available to help fund apprenticeships, there has never been a more cost effective opportunity for employers to increase their staff's effectiveness through the type of structured, work based training that an Apprenticeship brings to the table.

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Lithuania Bound
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Business Development Midlands Ltd (BDM) continued with their international training crusade ,ably supported by UK Trade and Industry, by visiting Lithuania. Keith Fielding, one of BDM's most experienced tutors attended a number of meetings to both network and explore training opportunities. With BDM having recently joined the prestigious British Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania, Keith attended their Annual General Meeting to network and make important contacts.
Further education institutions were also on the itinerary and a very positive meeting took place with the International School of Law and Business followed by a meeting with the Vilnius College of Political Sciences.
Keith certainly got the most out of his visit because he was even able to take in the Vilnius Trade Show at the Airport on his way rest for the wicked!
The upshot of the visit is that BDM are hoping to launch a pilot Leadership and Management module scheme in the Autumn.

Keith Fielding (BDM Tutor) attending the AGM of the British Chamber in Lithuania

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Update on SSW
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Everybody knows about the proposals for the apprenticeship levy although, despite the plethora of well meaning seminars and events, outlining the changes, the devil is in the detail and it seems that things are being thought through a bit 'on the hoof ', at present.
However, when BDM were delivering training in Worcestershire to upskill the local workforce, short, accredited courses always proved popular with businesses going through busy periods whilst recognising the need to bring out the full potential in their staff.
Yet it appears that there's a question mark behind the government (and their agencies) commitment to Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) initiatives. Let's hope that the powers that be realise the need for this sort of flexible funding. Calls for SSW tenders are starting to appear in different parts of the country but so far ( if you'll excuse the mixing of metaphors) there's been a blinding silence for the West Midlands area.

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Success Breeds Success!
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The final figures are in on BDM's highly successful scheme aimed at up skilling Worcestershire businesses through fully accredited training.

Eighty five businesses were supported under the scheme and there was an impressive pass rate of over 90% amongst the 221 learners trained by BDM. This was a programme that spanned 18 months and was funded through Europe. Subjects ranged from leadership and management aimed at team leaders to customer service and sales skills for front line staff.
BDM currently have funding available to support employees in businesses across the West Midlands who want to undertake a Diploma in Leadership and Management (Levels 3 and 5) and Sales and Marketing. This represents an excellent opportunity for employers to up skill key staff whilst taking advantage of available funding. For more information, simply contact Ian White on 0121 222 5738 or by simply emailing [email protected]
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Flag_of_Vietnam.svgNow, we're back time to reflect and follow up on contacts, drafting agreements etc. It looks like a result in terms of moving  forward delivering leadership and management training with our Vietnamese partners. Things we learnt? We should have gone for a fortnight and what we accomplished would never have happened without establishing trust through face to face meetings rather than attempting a chain of e mails! Oh..and it's been well worth joining the proactive and supportive UKTI Passport to Export initiative. Are they  Civil Servants ?  But not as we know it,Jim!
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A Fond Farewell
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IMG_2826A very enjoyable farewell dinner organised by our hospitable hosts now eaten and it's almost time to take part in the Cathay Pacific flight Marathon via Hong Kong . It's been really enjoyable but very tiring , with no real breaks from meetings during the day and usually doing 'homework' preparation in the evening, admittedly eased by putting a Tiger (beer or two) in our tank! The Vietnamese start early and like to be punctual so the prospect of a lie in has been out of the question. Just time for a bit of shopping or should it be bartering? Rollexx(!) Watches, Weasel Coffee(don't go there!!), Snake Wine and not to forget that a medium T-Shirt is medium size for a Vietnamese!


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Embassy Bound
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Meeting this morning with the UKTI embassy contact and we found it very useful in sketching out the overall position on UK initiatives in Vietnam. Plenty to chase up, on our return. Our last afternoon has been spent meeting a really progressive IT hardware manufacturing company and discussing management issues with their MD and his senior team..the good news for us is that though they are obviously successful, they do have issues and recognise that, as well.


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Taste Of Vietnam
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IMG_2704During this visit, we've been enjoying food ranging from excellent to interesting. For example, the excellent Pho, Shrimp and Pork dishes, all accompanied by their unique sauce. However today, we enjoyed a new experience along 'I Am the Celebrity' lines......sea worm spring rolls!  Actually, very tasty and we have learnt that any empty plates are automatically refilled as our waistbands expand. We've also learnt how to use chopsticks although we're more a Crewe Alexandra standard than Manchester United. Incidentally, everybody loves football, particularly the Manchester clubs and everybody seems to have been to Manchester University. There's a message in there somewhere for Birmingham!
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Hello Vietnam
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IMG_2690Arriving in Hanoi, the traffic has been horrendous and makes Piccadilly Circus look like a quiet cul de sac.The people are straight talking but wonderfully  friendly and hospitable. English rather than French is the most spoken second language and, thanks to tips from UKTI's Cultural Adviser, we have managed not to commit any  cultural faux pas. We passed business cards with both hands, received them with the care of handling a Ming Vase and exchanged presents as personal rather than business offerings - the latter apparently can be construed as bribery! Incidentally, our gifts included a Pewter whisky flask from our famous Jewellery Quarter and leather luggage tags with the City's logo.


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Making Plans
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Next steps was the process of checking and arranging some of the mechanics. Did our individual travel insurance cover a business trip? Yes! Did we need a Visa for a short visit? No!  Could we take foreign currency with us (bizarrely named the Dong)? No! Other issues to be sorted included innoculations (luckily none) and finding the cheapest most convenient flights, which we did predictably through a combination of Skyscanner  and the local Flight Shop.
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