Metro Mayor announces half-price rail travel for young apprentices in the Liverpool City Region

  • Move could save could save apprentices aged 19-24 up to £680 a year
  • Apprentice Travelcard, which already offers 50% off bus travel, one of the most generous such schemes in the UK 

Young people in apprenticeships across the Liverpool City Region are being given access to half-price train travel, just in time for the start of the autumn term.

Announcing the delivery of another manifesto commitment, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said the move could save apprentices up to £680 a year on train travel and will help remove one of the main barriers to entry for young people looking to enter vocational training – access to affordable transport.

Since it was launched in November 2018, the Apprentice Travelcard has offered apprentices aged 19-24 access to half-price bus travel across Merseyside. The inclusion of rail travel now makes it one of the most generous transport discount schemes for apprentices in the country.

From September, Apprentice Travelcard holders will be able to purchase weekly and monthly Railpass season tickets at 50% discount from all Merseyrail and staffed Northern stations. Depending on the travel zones covered by the pass, the ticket allows unlimited travel across the Northern, Wirral and City lines  with all rail operators, including Merseyrail, Northern, Transpennine Express, London Northwestern and East Midlands Trains.

Holders of the Apprentice Travelcard must be enrolled participants on registered apprenticeship schemes. Application packs are available from training providers and at Merseytravel Travel Centres, further details are available at

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said:

“Apprenticeships are a vital pathway to skilled, well-paid jobs. But we know that the cost of travel has been acting as a major obstacle for young people when it comes to considering an apprenticeship route. It was the same for me in the late 70s – when half my wages went to my mum – and most of the other half went on travel from building site to building site.

We want to remove as many of these barriers as we can, so I’m delighted to announce that – building on the discounted bus travel we already offer – from September, apprentices aged 19-24 from across the Liverpool City Region will be able to travel on the Merseyrail network at half-price, potentially saving them hundreds of pounds a year.

Yet again – we’re showing how devolution and local decision making – can improve the lives of ordinary people. “

Councillor Liam Robinson, transport portfolio holder for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority said: 

“Making travel by public transport easier and more affordable for young people has always been a priority for us. Already young people in the Liverpool City Region have access to great value rail fares, with Railpass tickets offering them unlimited travel across the Merseyrail network for less than £2.50 a day. To be able to extend the provision of reduced fares to those undertaking apprenticeships is fantastic, and will hopefully help to remove an obstacle to under-25s looking to enter work training.”

Suzanne Grant, Commercial Director at Merseyrail, said:

“We are pleased to be able to support young people in the City Region in obtaining qualifications and valuable work experience through this Railpass offer.

“Public transport is vital for many young people to get to and from their places of work or study, so I’m thrilled that we can do our part in making it accessible for all.

 “Apprentices can also use this pass for leisure purposes from the start to the end of service seven days a week – opening up plenty of opportunities to enjoy the Liverpool City Region.

 “This builds on our existing Young Person’s tickets offering passengers under 18 half price Railpass and Day Saver tickets.”

Chris Jackson, Regional Director at Northern said:

“We’re delighted to be able to support the next generation as they take their first steps in their new careers.

 “This discount scheme will significantly reduce costs for our customers from as far afield as Garswood, Newton-le-Willows and Hough Green, not only giving them more travel options, but also more money in their pockets.

 “Our partnership with Liverpool City Region underlines our commitment to giving our customers the best possible journey experience and this new offer complements the work we are doing to improve the rail network – with brand new and fully refurbished trains being rolled our across the region.”



Many thanks to everyone who attended the GMLPF AGM this week. It was great to see so many of you there and to receive such positive feedback. Thanks also to our guest speakers, Beej Kaczmarscyk, and also Elaine Smith of LSIS.

Beej delivered a comprehensive presentation on the introduction of non-levy digital accounts, looking in particular at how providers can position themselves to maximise apprenticeship opportunities. Elaine delivered a very useful presentation on the importance of curriculum in the new EIF. In addition, GMLPF CEO Ian Lomas provided an overview of GMLPF’s programme of work for 18/19 which included an outline of our achievements in respect of the ASK contract, and an overview of GMLPF’s programme of work for 19/20 including the delivery of our recently awarded Lottery Community Fund project focussing on apprentice/learner mental health. Chair Debbie Tagoe delivered a presentation on the important key messages from the North West FES Reference Group Ofsted.

Download AGM slides


GMLPF secures funding to extend mental health support programme for learning providers

GMLPF is pleased to announce it has been successful in its bid for Lottery funding via the Awards For All (A4A) programme to extend its mental health project tailored to support providers of apprenticeships.

Research among GMLPF members conducted late last year revealed that at any time up to 30% of their apprentices and learners are suffering with their mental health. This can eat up an average of 40 staff hours each month. On average each provider faces more than eighty mental health incidents requiring intervention each year.

Our research showed that many learning providers wanted some sort of formal training in mental health awareness. So as a first step GMLPF linked with AT Skills and Active IQ to launch a Mental Health Awareness and First Aid training course which ran in January and February this year.


Mental health a barrier to participation

The AT Skills delivered course ran over 2 days and awarded a Level 2 qualification to successful participants. Asset Training, North West Training Council, Lite Ltd, St Helens Chamber and Halton Council all sent staff on the course.  The delegates were well drilled in mental health first aid and how to signpost individuals in need to sources of professional support.

The successful Lottery bid means that GMLPF are now able to carry out more detailed research into the scale, nature and impact of mental health issues on apprentices and other learners, as well as provider staff. In particular the research will look at the extent to which mental ill-health is a barrier to participation in learning programmes and its impact on achievement levels.

Mental Health Ambassadors

In addition, the A4A funding will allow GMLPF to make its mental health training programme available to a wider audience of learning provider staff in its membership base. Furthermore, the project will see the launch of a pilot mental health first aid course for learners that helps them improve their understanding of mental health with a view to them becoming mental health ambassadors. Finally GMLPF will develop a portfolio of online resources and useful materials for learning provider staff to access to keep up to date with the latest mental health policy and practice

Ian Lomas, CEO of GMLPF said

“We’re very grateful to the Awards For All programme for supporting this important project. It’s clear that mental health is as critical an issue in the vocational sector as it is in schools. This funding will allow us to continue our work to understand exactly how mental health impacts on the delivery of programmes like apprenticeships, and to equip our members with the professional skills and expertise to support students.”


Apprenticeship Procurement

Do you want to grow your Apprenticeship Programme and work with local public sector levy payers?

In recent years some members who have previously worked with schools or with arms length public sector bodies have lost their contracts and working relationships as a result of procurement rounds being used to allocate Levy funding.

The 6 local authorities and Merseytravel wish to ensure that local providers have the opportunity to tender for contracts that will come out over the coming few months. Increasingly, it is their intention to use YPO to support the procurement of Apprenticeship programmes.

To that end, GMLPF hosted a workshop for members on Tuesday 7th May where Liverpool City Council, on behalf of the LCR’s 6 local authorities and Merseytravel, and YPO set out their priorities and the process for registering on YPO. Slides from the event are below. 5 key messages came out from the session:

  1. Combined the 6 local authorities and Merseytravel employ 41,000 staff and pay a levy of some £4.4m
  2. Combined they wish to support some 900 Apprentices or more each year – they are growing their Apprentice numbers supporting some 700 this year and demand is increasing particular from maintained schools
  3. Currently, the LAs and Merseytravel are procuring a very balanced programme of provision across a wide range of Frameworks and Standards with 34% and 40% at Levels 2 and 3 respectively
  4. The LAs and Merseytravel want to work with more local providers and are encouraging providers to register with YPO by 3 June so that successful providers can be considered for new procurement opportunities this summer. If providers don’t they will miss out on the opportunity to tender
  5. Registering on YPO gives members the opportunity to be considered for other public sector procurement opportunities outside of the Liverpool City Region giving them a much greater reach

Register with YPO 

YPO GMLPF event slides

Liverpool – Supplier Session slides

LCR launch regional apprenticeship portal

Finding and taking up one of a huge range of apprenticeships available across the Liverpool City Region is set to get much easier as the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has launched the UK’s first one-stop web portal for apprenticeships.

The portal – – brings together apprenticeship opportunities from employers.  This means that the Combined Authority can provide prospective apprentices in the Liverpool City Region with exactly the local information they need.

The web portal, which is the first of its kind, not only offers opportunities, but also features guides on how to apply, how to get there, and even what specific travel benefits may be available as well as guides for parents assisting their children who may be pursuing apprenticeship opportunities.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“This is the first portal anywhere in the country bringing together such a wide range of information about apprenticeship opportunities and how to apply for them, and we have built it here, in the Liverpool City Region, specifically for our residents.

“In my election manifesto I promised to simplify the way people access apprenticeship opportunities through an easily accessible, online apprenticeship portal for the city region and I’m proud to have fulfilled that pledge.

“Visitors to the portal will be amazed at the type of apprenticeships we have in the city region, it’s not just the traditional trades, you can study at degree level and beyond in subjects ranging from Clinical Engineering to becoming a Paralegal. There is certainly much more on offer in terms of opportunities and qualifications than when I did a traditional bricklaying apprenticeship.”

In just a little more than a month (launched March 2019) there have been over 10,000 apprenticeship searches made on the site already! Top searches include engineering, IT, construction and digital marketing.

The new portal will also be a useful tool for employers in the Liverpool City Region to advertise their apprenticeship vacancies as it offers employers the opportunity to advertise vacancies on the site should they not have the infrastructure available to do so via the national solution.

The site also offers a fast growing library of City Region based apprentice case studies and experiences so visitors to the site can read about the diversity of the opportunities available as well as find out what life is really like as an apprentice.

Apprenticeship providers

Regional apprenticeship providers will find that the site provides a strong identity for City Region apprenticeships and an ideal backdrop for their own promotional activity. The website automatically lists the apprenticeship vacancies that they upload to the national Find An Apprenticeship portal. Providers are encouraged to help raise awareness of the Be More brand and website by engaging with the Be More team on social media, and identifying subjects for apprenticeship success stories.

To find out more information about apprenticeships across the Liverpool City Region go to

LCR Apprenticeship Hub Update – April 2019

GMLPF attended the LCR Apprenticeship Hub Board Meeting on 18 April.

Apprenticeship starts

Early indications point to a slight increase in apprenticeship starts in the region for first half of 2018/2019 compared with the same period last year. Whilst this is encouraging news, there are key factors that point to continuing challenges:

  • Growth is coming from 25+ age cohort; 16 to 18 apprenticeship starts have fallen in comparison to 17/18
  • Growth is seen in advanced and higher level programmes; starts at intermediate level continue to fall

LCR Hub  report

The Hub reported on the success of their apprenticeship awareness-raising programme across the region. Over 18 months, the highly productive Hub team have completed a herculean itinerary of communications and events which included planning and executing no less than 33 skills shows across the region, attended by 7000 individuals. They also delivered 14 events to launch the Skills For Growth Action Plans, and carried out 1131 targeted meetings to inform employers, schools, referral agencies, parents and others about apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship Graduation  

The report on the LCR Hub Apprenticeship Graduation held on 7 March was shared at the meeting. It provides an overview of the features and successes of the event held at St Georges Hall and opened by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram. Key achievements and points to note include:

  • Almost 300 attendees across 2 events
  • 103 apprentices graduated at the event
  • These apprentices were supported by 24 learning providers
  • Apprentices studied at a range of levels (L2 to L5)
  • Graduates were of all ages with the majority being between the ages of 17 and 25 (49%)


5 Key Ways GMLPF Supports Its Members

Greater Merseyside Learning Providers Federation (GMLPF) supports training providers who deliver apprenticeships, traineeships, study programmes, adult training and other skills programmes. The support we provide is varied and driven by demands of members and also by funding or strategy changes in the local and national skills landscape. Here are five of the many support services we provide our members:

  1. Lobbying

Anyone who has spent time working in the Government funded skills sector will be familiar with the rapid pace of change. GMLPF works to mitigate potential negative impact of changes by consulting with its members, collating their views and voicing their opinions and concerns with appropriate authorities so they can be considered and addressed. Recent consultations with members have focussed on Liverpool Reducing NEET Strategy, and Ofsted’s new inspection framework.

  1. Ofsted

Where appropriate, GMLPF is happy to provide input or meet with inspectors as part of members’ Ofsted inspections. This has proved useful in the past in particular to demonstrate evidence of participation in CPD and in raising quality of training. This service is usually taken by members who are undergoing a full inspection as opposed to a monitoring visit as inspectors’ time is limited.

  1. CPD

A primary focus for GMLPF is to provide CPD opportunities to its members that are relevant to their needs. These opportunities come in the form of free or subsidised workshops, training sessions or webinars. Recent topics have included Planning and Delivering 20% Off the Job Training; Mental Health Awareness & First Aid (resulting in Level 2 Award); Documentation & Processes for Submission of AEB Tenders; ROATP; Successful Ofsted Monitoring Visits; Reform of Functional Skills

  1. Brokering member partnerships

GMLPF is all about creating opportunities for its members to network and learn from each other. Occasionally, we help bring together members for a more defined working relationship. For example, we put one member who offers level 2 and 3 apprenticeships in touch with a provider offering relevant higher level management apprenticeships. Together they are approaching employers to offer a full progression route for apprenticeships in their industry sector with great success.

  1. Opportunities

GMLPF always has its radar on for opportunities for its members including commercial opportunities which are communicated via the weekly GMLPF Member newsletter. Recently, we invited an organisation contracted to deliver training services for the Ministry of Justice to speak to members about potential collaboration. They are looking for delivery partners and several GMLPF members are now considering this as an opportunity for growth.


Non levy allocations – Important!

GMLPF is aware that members have this week received correspondence from ESFA, which  identifies the value attached to their extended non levy allocations over the period April 19-March 2020.

It seems that these allocations may be subject to further change. However, GMLPF understands that the ESFA has indicated that the primary focus of the extension contracts should be upon carry in funding and supporting existing learners rather than supporting new starts.

This may have a significant impact upon members and the wider, local apprenticeship market. GMLPF is keen to understand what the impact of the new allocations are on your organisation so we can raise this issue with the Combined Authority locally and also with AELP. With this in mind, could GMLPF members with apprenticeship contracts who have been given extensions e-mail indicating:

  • If the value of the extension contract is broadly more, the same or less than the previous year
  • Whether, after factoring in carry in funding, there will be an impact on apprenticeship starts over the coming year ie up, down or broadly the same. It would be helpful to have some scale of change if the extension contract is resulting in significant change ie 25% increase, 50% decrease
  • What wider impact there might be on your organisation as a result of the extension contract

NAO Apprenticeships Report Highlights Areas for Improvement

The Department for Education has some way to go before it can demonstrate that the apprenticeships programme is achieving value for money, with numbers of apprenticeships below pre-reform levels, says the National Audit Office.

In its report published earlier this month, the NAO states that since introducing its reforms the Department has improved how it assesses the benefits of the programme. However, it has not set out clearly how it measures whether the programme is boosting economic productivity – the ultimate aim of the programme. It therefore has some way to go before it can demonstrate that resources are being used to best effect.

Many of the key headlines from the report echo opinions that GMLPF members have expressed over the last couple of years, including:

  • The average cost of training an apprentice on a standard is around double what was expected by ESFA. This is because employers are opting for greater numbers of higher value standards than was anticipated. This has resulted in fewer starts and increased pressure on the apprenticeship budget. It is highly likely that, without any significant growth in volumes spending on Apprenticeships could rise to £bn per year once frameworks are withdrawn
  • The 3m starts target is unlikely to be met. To meet this target the number of apprenticeship starts would need to double from the current baseline which is highly unlikely in the current market
  • The Government’s target for widening participation in apprenticeships lacks ambition ie raising participation for those who are SEND. We know participation is low for SEND in Liverpool City Region.
  • There has been a steep rise in the proportion of apprenticeships started under the new standards which employers generally consider as an improvement on frameworks
  • The introduction of standards and the levy has seen a significant change in the profile and make-up of the apprenticeship programme. There has been a pronounced shift away from lower level apprenticeships  to high cost, higher level apprenticeships. There is a sense that larger, corporate entities may be replacing their professional development or in-house training programmes with apprenticeship programmes.
  • The report highlights issues with quality including the fact that the ESFA has limited assurance that apprentices are spending 20% or more of their time in off the job training. Furthermore, approximately 25% of training providers in 2016/17 met the criteria for ESFA intervention because their achievement rates fell below national minimum standards.
  • The NAO has concerns about the long term sustainability of the programme

Read full report

Read summary report


Commercial opportunity: Delivering Ministry of Justice Learning Programmes

GMLPF recently met with 3SC, an organisation who manages extensive government funded learning contracts.  It currently has learning contracts to support delivery of learning within prisons and ex-offenders who are in the process of being rehabilitated. It is currently looking for delivery partners to help deliver and expand its range of learning programmes

In 2017-18 alone it supported supply chain activity in excess of £6million. We have built supply chains and worked with more than 550 different delivery organisations across 16 programmes in the welfare to work/employment, young people, criminal justice, and disabilities’ arenas.

3SC is currently looking to expand our partnership base and have a number of pathways for organisations to start the process of collaboration with us. Current pathways are:

Prison Education Framework:

Under the prison education framework contracts 3SC are able to bid for a range of services within the below categories:

PEDPS.13 – Life skills

PEDPS.14 -Services to support individuals with Additional Learning Needs

PEDPS.16 – Resettlement Service

PEDPS.17 – Preparation for work, Information Advice and Guidance service

We would need specific partnerships for the delivery of these services and believe that the needs of people using these services – especially those who are hardest to reach – are best met by experienced, local, passionate and mission-driven organisations. 3SC sees potential opportunities for GMLPF members here.

Community Based Delivery:

3SC works in partnership with Interserve, Purple Futures and the Community Rehabilitation Companies of Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and Hampshire & Isle of Wight. This partnership presents opportunities for delivery of community based learning provision targeted at small groups to larger cohorts of service users who need additional support when released from custody and rehabilitating back in to, or moving to, our local areas.

The community based services can range from entry to employment, to mentoring and everything in-between, this is very much dependent on the national probation services requirements at local branch level, recent procurements include but are not limited to:

Accommodation Services – emergency and sustained

Mentoring – 1-1 support services

Life Skills Coaching

If GMLPF members would like to know more about these potential opportunities, 3SC will be hosting an event at the GMLPF offices in Liverpool on the 11th of March at 1pm. There will be limited spaces so just 1 person per organisation please. 3SC will provide an overview of the programmes it delivers, an introduction to 3SC as an organisation, an introduction to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Prison Education Framework provision and will outline potential partnership opportunities. 3SC team members will be there to answer any questions

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