An innovative apprenticeships programme will be delivered in the capital’s professional services sector after a £2.3 million boost.

The London Professional Apprenticeship (LPA) programme will provide 250 apprenticeships to attract outstanding young Londoners into professional services roles. Small businesses that join the LPA will be able to take advantage of the programme’s apprentice matching service, making it easier for them to access talent to help them grow. It will also provide an environment for apprentices to learn together and develop networks that will benefit them throughout their career.

The LPA, developed by global professional services firm PwC, will receive £1.4 million from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) with PwC contributing £900,000.

The professional and business services (PBS) sector is forecast to create a net increase of over 600,000 jobs by 2020, and the sector will prioritise recruitment from a wide talent pool. This was reaffirmed in the Professional and Business Services Industrial Strategy published jointly by the government and the PBS Sector Council in the summer.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This innovative programme will accelerate apprenticeship training in an important sector.

“The PBS sector relies heavily on the quality of its people and the future success of the sector will depend on recruiting a diverse workforce with a broad skills set. PwC has made good progress recruiting apprentices on its existing programme, and I hope many other firms, particularly small businesses, will join and make the LPA programme just as successful.”

Sara Caplan, partner, PwC said: “The LPA is a new way of learning for London to create the next generation of business people and the networks to support them in training and beyond. It’s specifically designed to open up career opportunities based on people’s potential to learn and employer’s drive to grow, and challenges traditional perceptions of who can access what opportunities.”

The LPA is a new concept and demonstrates the government working with employers to focus on employer-led solutions to bridge skills gaps and grow the UK economy.

Firms in the PBS sector, such as PwC, have already begun opening up alternative routes for non-graduates through Higher Apprenticeships to build a career, widening access to training and career opportunities in the sector. To meet current demands and future growth opportunities, it is vital that businesses can tap into a wide talent pool, and the PBS Industrial Strategy included a commitment to treble the number of Higher Apprenticeships in the sector to 10,000 by 2018.

A recruitment drive aimed at apprentices will begin in the New Year, and more businesses will be encouraged to employ apprentices through the LPA. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be a particular target, as currently only five per cent of SMEs in London employ an apprentice.

The LPA is a bespoke programme designed to address the needs of London’s employers and young people, and includes training modules that are relevant to the capital, such as exporting, entrepreneurship and London’s role in the UK and global economy. The model has been designed to be sustainable however and could be applied to other cities or region.