3,2,1 Apprenticeships are Go!

Our Apprenticeship Expert Elouise Smith discusses the new apprentice levy during National Apprentice week


Here we are again, apprenticeships are the buzzword from the 6th – 10th of March, and, it’s the 10th anniversary for National Apprenticeship Week! 10 years, that’s a big anniversary that just happens to coincide with another one that is about to become a buzzword around apprenticeships – levy.

Here are the facts; almost 2 years ago it was announced in the summer budget that the government would introduce an apprenticeship levy, so this isn’t a surprise, but come 6th April do we really know what’s actually happening?

Apprenticeships are the employers’ duty, or at least the government thinks so. Control of apprenticeship funding is being handed to the employers and, rightly or wrongly, whether you agree or not, any companies with a payroll of £3million plus will have to pay this. In real terms this means that only 2% of UK businesses will be financially affected.   However, each business that qualifies to pay the levy will be given an ‘allowance’ of £15000 towards the 0.5% fee. This should help soften the blow of additional administration etc.

Is the government therefore cost saving and forcing the hand of employers to take apprentices?

Does a big payroll mean big profit?

Will these companies find a way to push the cost down onto their clients?

Employment Agencies are a good example, the ones that are big enough to be paying the levy, of course won’t be paying it, because I would expect that the cost will be passed onto their clients, who could potentially be hiring agency staff, so it could be that many more businesses will be paying this levy than the gov.uk website would have you believe.

Is this negative association really the right message for apprenticeships and the positives that they bring? As it appears that in one way or another most businesses are paying this levy, it will be interesting to see what Apprenticeship week brings, and how the positives are publicised amongst this potential cloud hanging over it all.

Fundamentally this is about people and work. It’s about encouraging, empowering even, employers to take untrained people into their businesses and train them up, as we find nowadays that the education route perhaps isn’t always relevant, achieved or successful in leading to the goal of a job.

Ultimately it is a way to bring apprenticeships to the attention of many more employers and create so many more opportunities. We should start bringing apprentices through businesses, finding and creating new talent and working on bringing the next generation into their future careers. Wherever the money comes from, isn’t it the most important thing that apprentices are a norm within UK business. Why can’t the UK, lead the way, set the tone, become exemplary? Perhaps if your hand is being forced you are more likely to invest, so despite it being a business pain, it can turn into a business pleasure.

And some good news is that the criteria has changed, although we generally associate apprenticeships with school leavers, and this is most commonly the case, there is now no age, qualifications or geographical restrictions. This is of course education through training, and business and training go hand in hand, consequently qualifications within the work place make so much sense.

So while we may not like the way that the funding is now being accrued, if it gets 16 year old Jay his first job in engineering and 26 year old Alana a new opportunity to leave childcare and become a hairdresser, or if it gives 45 year old Andrew another chance at employment should we actually be sucking this up and reaping the rewards that it will ultimately deliver the business infrastructure of our country?