SMALL and medium-sized businesses in Bolton are being urged to take advantage of an apprentices support scheme which has benefitted more than 180 of their counterparts.

Up to £3,000 can be sourced from the See Different programme for Greater Manchester, which can used to develop traineeships.

And the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is hopeful a fresh wave of applicants will come forward and use up available funding.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “This support package has already created a substantial number of opportunities for residents in the city-region and we hope to create even more as we move forward.

“Apprenticeships are crucial in bridging the skills gap and creating good quality employment opportunities which boost productivity.

“ It’s vital that we continue to remove the barriers and make job opportunities in the city-region feel accessible to Greater Manchester residents, both young and old.”

The authority commissioned the Growth Company to deliver a levy matchmaking service, to pair payers with partners, with more than £2million committed towards 300 apprentice places so far.

Cllr Sean Fielding, the GMCA’s education and skills lead, added: “These results show just how important apprenticeships are to the city-region and that we are doing everything we can to help businesses make the most of them. Improving the quality and growth of apprenticeships is a fantastic way to get people into work, allowing them to have the support they need to enter and sustain employment and with the chance to up-skill and progress in their careers.

“Apprenticeships are an excellent route for anyone looking to start, change or develop their careers.”

Work on Stimulating Employer Demand for Apprenticeships has provided 515 workforce development plans regionally. The plans aim to highlight any skills gaps or need for upskilling, then decide how to access training for existing staff or recruit new staff using the apprenticeship model and taking advantage to the funding available to them.