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Airways to fairways: golfer who lost his business during Covid lands dream job as greenskeeper thanks to Airbus

  • Greenskeeper apprenticeship at regenerated Bowring Park & Golf Course in Roby
  • Mayor Steve Rotheram launched campaign urging big employers to gift unused funding
  • TV channel QVC, Airbus and travel firm TUI UK&I among those helping to create roles
  • Combined Authority has so far transferred £4.5m of unspent levy to create 900 apprenticeships

A keen golfer who lost his business during the pandemic has launched a new career as an apprentice greenskeeper thanks to funding secured by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

Pete Elliot swapped his seasonal gardening job at Bowring Park and Golf Course for a new career after Airbus gifted unused funding through the apprenticeship levy transfer scheme.

The 41-year-old, who worked in finance until the pandemic, is now caring for the 132 acres of parkland near Roby and hopes one day to take over from the course’s two long-term greenskeepers.

Marion Atkinson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Employment, Education and Skills for 2023/24, said:

“It is really important that we make the best use of any unspent levy and to keep that money within the city region otherwise it is taken by the Treasury.

“We are looking to work with any levy payers who can transfer out their unused levy to city region employers and were able to partner Bowring Park and Golf Course with Airbus.

“Just recently we have managed to secure around £1.3m from a number of different levy payers so we are now looking for employers to receive that money. Anyone who is interested, please get in touch with the team.”

Pete said:

“I am from a science and engineering background and had my own business but then Covid happened, unfortunately. I had played golf here a lot and always thought it would be a great place to work so when I saw the job advertised, I applied for it and got it.

“I’m not your typical apprentice age and I probably thought like everybody else that it’s for school leavers and people of that age, so to find out I was eligible and it was something that I could take up was brilliant. I feel I’ve learned a lot already, the science behind what we do and the art of it as well, so I am really excited for the future.”

Large employers are required by law to pay 0.5% of their wage bill towards an Apprenticeship Levy – which is collected by the government to fund apprenticeships. Levy payers can spend their own allocation on in-house apprentices or gift up to 50% of the money to other organisations.

Last year, the Mayor called on large employers to pledge to gift their unused levy to smaller local firms, allowing hundreds of new city region apprenticeships to be created.

Bowring Park and Golf Course, the first municipal course in England and now bisected by the M62 motorway, is owned by Knowsley Council and managed by Oneday.

Oneday was able to fund training for an apprentice thanks to a transfer from Airbus, one of the many large organisations who have come forward to support the scheme.

Helen Paton, Partnerships and Funding Manager at Oneday, said:

“We’re really excited to have this opportunity to take on a new apprentice, it’s really important in terms of our succession planning. We really wanted Pete to be able to upskill and have fresh opportunities in his career.

“The levy opportunity was something we only recently became aware of thanks to the Combined Authority and when we realised we could actually upskill an existing member of staff and have that fully funded, it was a real eye opener. We didn’t have the resources to do that so it has been a huge advantage.”

Kate Holthofer, Airbus Head of HR, Broughton Site, said:

“Airbus is a huge supporter of apprenticeships because we understand the vital part they play in the career development of thousands of individuals. This success story showcases the impact large businesses like Airbus can have by partnering with small businesses and communities to redistribute any unspent levy in the areas where we are based to create employment opportunities.”

Latest figures show the Combined Authority has so far helped to transfer almost £4.5m of unspent levy funding to pay for more than 900 new apprentices – generating a return on investment of more than £120m for the city region.

Around £2.2bn of apprenticeship funding has been handed back to the Treasury by the DfE in the six years since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced. The underspend in the Liverpool City Region is estimated to be in the tens of millions.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can gift your Apprenticeship Levy funds or are looking to access a Levy transfer then please contact the Employer Brokerage Service at or register your details here: