CMI calls on government to stand firm on apprenticeship levy one year on
The Government has been urged to give employers greater clarity on how to activate Apprenticeship Levy funding and commit to reversing falling apprenticeship starts figuresJermaine Haughton
Following a concerning slump in the number of apprenticeship courses started in the past year, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) insists the government must now provide specific details on the funding bands available to small- and medium-sized businesses to empower thousands to begin courses nurturing their next generation of leaders.
Since Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the new Apprenticeship Levy fund in his Spring Budget Statement last month, small business managers have been left in the dark with limited further information. No details have been released on how it will work, what the money will be spent on, or how exactly it will increase small businesses engagement with the new apprenticeships.
The CMI’s director of strategy Petra Wilton says the Government needs to act quickly to ensure the UK’s smaller employers don’t miss out on the valuable opportunity to fill vital skill gaps and grow their businesses.
She said: “Small businesses are a big piece in the puzzle of how to boost the number of apprentices, and how to make the Apprenticeship Levy work for all. A year on since its launch, there have been many positive signs of how the Levy is transforming the way in which employers develop young people starting out in their careers, and upskill existing employees.
SMEs NEED HELP WITH THE APPRENTICESHIP LEVY
“However, the current set-up certainly favours larger employers. SMEs employ nearly half of the UK’s workforce, so the government needs to get many more on-board with the apprenticeship programme if it’s to hit its 3m target by 2020. We welcomed the Chancellor’s £80m helping hand for small businesses to access the Apprenticeship Levy in his Spring Budget Statement, but a month on and we’re still waiting for details. Too many businesses are missing out, and will continue to do so until the government fills in the blanks.”
The Department of Education confirmed a significant drop in the number of new apprenticeship starts in the past year, and worryingly nearly half (47%) of managers surveyed by the CMI believe that the government will fail to meet its target of having three million apprentices by 2020. Petra Wilton, however, explains the drop in the number of apprenticeships reflects employers taking their time to develop new, high-quality programmes, rather than suggesting a lack of interest.
EMPLOYERS TAKE TIME TO DEVELOP APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMMES
The scheme is already receiving significant attention from boss’s keen to incorporate high-quality degree apprenticeships into their operations. A recent survey showed four in five (81%) managers want access to the digital apprenticeships service to be extended to small businesses to drive up apprenticeship numbers.
Wilton said: “Despite a slow start, we’re aware that many businesses are rightly taking their time to ensure they get real benefits from investing in apprenticeships. They are selecting high-quality providers and aligning apprenticeship provision to the needs of the business. As a result, many new starts are expected in the year ahead, and the government’s decision to create a two-year window for spending the levy is clearly welcome.
“However, still too many employers are not even be aware that they can use the Levy to train managers and leaders at every level. We now need more collaboration to ensure that this support from managers for apprenticeships translates into a new way of training and upskilling the workforce.
She added: “The broad scope of these new apprenticeships means that we’ll see school leavers all the way to executives embark on apprenticeships that will advance their careers and benefit their employers. The likes of the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship programme is now producing its first graduates, managers with world-class skills needed to meet the business challenges of the 21st century.”