Work and Skills

GMCA and Association of Apprentices launch partnership to boost opportunities for apprentices

GREATER Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has joined forces with the Association of Apprentices (AoA) in a new partnership to boost the apprenticeship experience for learners in Greater Manchester.

GMCA and the AoA have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding, which will remain in place for the next three years. In the formal agreement, both organisations have set out how they will work in partnership to increase support available to apprentices and connect employers, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), to resources, provide access to training events as well as peer learning groups.

The AoA is a not-for-profit organisation which was set up in 2019 to support apprentices in the UK. It connects apprentices to each other through its professional networking platform, and helps them to build life-long connections with their peers. GMCA will be working to encourage apprentices and employers in Greater Manchester to get involved and make the most of the opportunities provided by the network. 

An inaugural apprentice networking event is also set to take place on 27th September this year in Manchester city centre.

Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, GMCA Portfolio Lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital, said: “We want Greater Manchester to be one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old. A key part of this is ensuring that everyone can access the very best career and training opportunities, across a broad spectrum of industries, right here in Greater Manchester.  

“The proposals set out in our Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of Apprentices (AoA) are really exciting, and will help to support us in achieving our ambitious plans to increase the number of high-quality apprenticeships and opportunities for people living in the city-region.

“Through our partnership working with AoA, we aim to continue to lead the way in apprenticeship employment while focussing on the needs of learners and employers. I urge apprentices, learning providers and employers across Greater Manchester to please get involved with the AoA network, access advice and reap the benefits of meeting other like-minded apprentices.”

Emily Austin, CEO of Association of Apprentices, said: “We set up the AoA to fill the gap in professional and social networking opportunities that apprentices sometimes miss out on by going straight into work rather than university or perhaps because they are the only apprentice in their organisation or department.  It can be quite isolating and lonely, and peer connections for support and advice can make a huge difference to an apprentice’s experience and whether they complete their apprenticeship.

“I’m delighted to be working with the GMCA.  With their support and focus on apprenticeship growth and quality across Greater Manchester, we can reach and enrich the experiences of hundreds of apprentices, especially those working in small and medium sized organisations.   We also support training providers and employers to build, manage and engage their apprentice communities, and through GMCA, we can work collaboratively to benefit everyone involved with delivering apprenticeships.”

Joanne Roney, Greater Manchester’s chief executive lead skills and apprenticeships added: “As someone who began their career as an apprentice at the age of 16, I am a life-long advocate of apprenticeships as a career path and the opportunities they can present. As I’ve moved through my career, I have been keenly aware of the inherent responsibility to develop pathways for our future generations and our residents to access employment opportunities and ensure everyone in Greater Manchester has the chance to benefit from the economic growth and success of the city region.

“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding will truly enhance the journey of our apprentices here in Greater Manchester and I hope people will take the opportunity to get involved and share their experiences.”

Membership to the Association of Apprentices is open to current and recently completed apprentices, with opportunities to attend networking events, complete online courses and get to know other apprentices across the UK. Individual apprentices and SMEs can join the network for free, while there is a sliding scale of charges for larger companies. GMCA is hoping access to the network will benefit apprentices in Greater Manchester by helping them to progress in their careers and succeed in their apprenticeships.

The new partnership forms part of a wider commitment in Greater Manchester to increase the number of high-quality apprenticeships available to residents.

Young people (aged 11-30) are encouraged to utilise the Greater Manchester Apprenticeship and Careers Service (GMACS) to explore options for their future. With over 100,000 users, the site is part of the Mayor’s commitment to ensure every young person across the city-region has access to opportunities and no one is left behind. GMACS is a hub of tools, resources, opportunities, events and more, bringing together different stages of the career planning process to help young people.

The Levy Matchmaking Service, a pioneering apprenticeship programme run by The Growth Company, has also been paving the way in providing apprenticeship opportunities. The service enables large employers with apprenticeship levy underspend to match with smaller business looking to hire apprentices, with over £8.1m so far having been pledged to support 843 apprenticeships in SMEs across Greater Manchester.

For more information and to book a place at the Apprentice Meet Up event please visit

To find out more about apprenticeship opportunities please visit

For more information on the Association of Apprenticeships please visit


Article Published: 02/08/2022 11:31 AM