The chief executive of international fashion brand, David Nieper Ltd, has challenged the government to target tax cuts to encourage businesses to invest in skills development and level up opportunities across the country.
Christopher Nieper OBE, outlined his proposal for a Learning and Skills tax credit while addressing business leaders, government officials and academics attending the Make UK conference, held at the Queen Elizabeth ll Centre in Westminster, on Tuesday, February 25.
Christopher, whose family company has just been named both British Manufacturer of the Year and Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year by Make UK, thinks businesses have an opportunity to support learning in their local communities and open the door to free university tuition fees.
He said: “I urge the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to introduce a corporation tax credit to incentivise employers to nurture talent in schools, in apprenticeships and in universities. Unlocking talent in forgotten communities is the key to levelling up and employers could be the route to free university tuition fees.
“Businesses have a real opportunity to make a huge difference by taking responsibility for their local communities. They should work with the education sector to unleash talent to level up opportunities across the country.”
Attended by over 800 delegates from the manufacturing, government and academia, as well as Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, the conference was compered by former BBC Breakfast presenter Steph McGovern.
Speaking on skills and learning, Christopher voiced his frustration at the current apprenticeship levy, calling it a ‘tax on jobs’ that obstructs, rather than supports genuine skills development in the UK.
Christopher said: “Scrap the apprenticeship levy and level up Britain by replacing it with a Learning and Skills tax credit which any employer large or small can access. Make it a big, bold scheme, encourage the private sector to support schools, apprentices and university undergraduates. And allow educators to benefit too, additional schools funding could be available this way.
“Although we run our own sewing academy, we couldn’t access our levy funds as our own tried and tested in-house apprenticeships were not ‘officially’ recognised. We found ourselves in a position where we were paying twice – paying to train dressmakers in our sewing school and also paying a levy we couldn’t use.”
David Nieper Ltd, which employs over 300 staff, took a bold step of becoming a recognised employer provider of apprenticeships and has also led the government’s national trailblazer for apprenticeship standards which didn’t previously exist for the textiles industry.
“We are striving to make this system work for us – but there is a simpler way.
The government’s Research and Development tax credit system has proved highly effective in making Britain a leader in innovation. “Why can’t we support learning and talent in the same way? A Learning and Skills tax credit would boost the UK’s talent pipeline and support the government’s levelling up agenda,” added Christopher.
The David Nieper Sewing Academy was established in 2015 to address the chronic skills shortage in the UK’s fashion and textiles industry with the aim of developing specialist skills locally.
And in 2016, the company made the unprecedented step of sponsoring the town’s local secondary for 850 pupils – now the David Nieper Academy.
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- David Nieper is a designer, manufacturer and retailer of fine ladies’ fashion, established in Derbyshire in 1961.
- The family business operates 5 factories in Alfreton, Derbyshire and has offices in France, Germany and Holland employing 320+ skilled people.
- David Nieper is committed to manufacturing in Britain and has never taken production overseas. The company prioritizes local jobs and local economic prosperity.
- David Nieper operates sustainable production at each stage of the garment manufacturing process creating minimum impact on the environment.
- In 2019 the University of Nottingham conducted a study which illustrated David Nieper is 47% greener than similar UK designers, producing in offshore textile manufacturing hubs.
- The company was named both British Manufacturer of the Year 2020 and Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year 2020 by Make UK.
- The David Nieper approach to social responsibility is altruistic and far reaching, not only creating jobs for local people, but also prioritising the educational welfare of local children.
- To help raise the level of education and skills in the local area, in 2015 the David Nieper Education Trust was established and in 2016 the company became sponsor of the David Nieper Academy.