Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry has called on more SMEs in Yorkshire to take on apprentices.
Mr Berry was speaking at the launch of Leeds Beckett University’s new University Business Centre in Halifax.
He said: “SMEs, which are the backbone of our economy, represent 60 per cent of our business community but only 24 per cent of those are currently taking on apprentices.
“That’s why earlier in the summer, when we had the Northern Powerhouse business summit, I set out a challenge to all of those SMEs to join us on this journey of improving vocational education across the North of England and recruit an apprentice.
“I’m working with the National Apprenticeship Service to reach out to those business to say come on you can take on an apprentice. That can be the key to driving forward your business.”
The Minister was asked about the potential negative impact of the apprenticeship levy on uptake.
However, he said it was too early to say and that while take up of apprenticeships has been lower than the Government had hoped, it was now seeing an increase with a “welcome” increase coming in the number of higher level apprenticeships.
The University Business Centre has been launched by Leeds Beckett to help early-stage and small businesses in Halifax grow.
The centre, located at Piece Mill in Halifax, will offer affordable office services and meeting spaces, as well as access to business lounges and meeting facilities across the town.
It is the fourth Leeds Beckett University Business Centre to be opened. There are two other hubs in Leeds and one in Wakefield.
Mr Berry praised business hubs across the North saying that the University Business Centre was another good example of civic leaders, universities and companies working in partnership.
“They are seeding the next generation of entrepreneurs across the Northern Powerhouse,” he said.
Mr Berry added: “By coming together, we can really see that step change in economic growth driven by entrepreneurship.”
Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), also spoke at the event and said the North will be key to driving the UK economy forward.
He said: “I genuinely believe that for generations to come for UK plc the North is part of the solution and not the problem, although it does have some challenges.
“Towns like Halifax, Huddersfield, as well as the big metropolitan areas have a role to play in that.”
Mr Marsh says that the LEP is trying to create conditions for sustained economic growth.
“Not just any old growth,” he said. “The growth that will actually produce good and better jobs further up the value chain. That ultimately produces better lives.”
He added: “While we do have good levels of employment, actually living standards have hardly moved. We need to do something about that.”
The University Business Centre maybe new to Halifax but it is based on a tried and tested model, said Professor Peter Slee, vice chancellor of Leeds Beckett University.
He added: “We have four centres of this type. One of them specialised in creative and digital businesses, another working on very creative textile based businesses. In January we opened a centre a little like this in Wakefield.
“There are 250 businesses operating in those centres now and over the last decade we have helped over 800 businesses get on their feet and start creating jobs and generating the economy.”