Calls for change to the apprenticeship levy intensify as numbers drop again

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Leading utilities and construction training provider, Develop Training, has added its voice to calls for change to the Apprenticeship Levy

As latest figures highlight a 25% slump in new apprentices, Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training, said: “The government should take action and make structural changes to the Levy.”

Develop Training, whose customers include some of the largest names in construction and household name utility companies, has called for three adaptations to the apprenticeship levy:

  • Make the Levy more flexible by extending the time allowed to use funds beyond the current two years;
  • Widen apprenticeship choice; and
  • Unshackle the de facto value cap on apprenticeships, a move which would help training firms to deliver more schemes

Wood added that employers also needed to get to grips with the scheme: “There are issues with how the Levy works, but it could be argued that a major cause of the problem remains ignorance of the Levy and its implications.”

He said a cut in the rate of the Levy, which some have called for, was highly unlikely as it could be politically suicidal and fail to address underlying skills shortages. On the other hand, raising the rate, in an attempt to put more pressure on employers to make use of it may negatively impact the important work performed by other separately levy-funded bodies such as the CITB and ECITB.

More flexibility in the scheme, allowing Levy funding to pay for different kinds of training, might help, he said, welcoming news that more firms were implementing higher level apprenticeships.

April marks the first anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy, which requires larger employers to invest in apprenticeships or forfeit their contribution to the scheme. However, preliminary government figures released at the end of March showed a 25% drop in the number of people starting apprenticeships in the first two quarters of 2017/18. This led to employer organisations, including the Engineering Employers Federation and the CBI, to renew calls for an overhaul.

The government pointed out that the latest figures are preliminary, and also welcomed the rise in higher level training being provided under the Levy.

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