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Posted By Apprenticeships Directory on 04/04/2018 in Apprenticeship Sector News Stories

Apprenticeships lag as businesses remain confused about new levy

Apprenticeships lag as businesses remain confused about new levy

One year on from the introduction of the ‘apprenticeship levy’ there are still more questions than answers. Here is how a collaborative Apprenticeship Employer Conference led by SGS College provided the region's employers with some answers to these questions. 

Hundreds of representatives from some of the region’s top employers recently attended SGS College for an annual Employer Apprenticeship Conference.

The event was run by SGS College in conjunction with Western Training Providers Network, Business West, City of Bristol, City of Bath and Weston College. It is part of an ongoing effort to clear up the facts and identify the funding benefits that employers can claim through the Government’s apprenticeship levy. 

The levy represents a milestone in transforming the way employer’s access talent and how the education system operates for young people. It can be used to fund anything from a level 2 customer service programme right through to an MBA for an aspiring or current senior leader. 

Despite this, many businesses aren’t yet getting the benefits, or even have an understanding of how the scheme works. In fact, the latest figures from the Department of Education show a 35 percent drop in uptake of apprenticeship places, from 41,600 a year ago to 27,000 starts in November 2017.

Sara-Jane Watkins, SGS College principal, talked about the new world of apprenticeships in terms of the apprenticeship levy programme, which went live twelve months ago. 

“We absolutely recognise that managing the transition to the new regime has presented some challenges for everyone involved in apprenticeships," Sara-Jane said. 

“Many employers are paying a significant amount of money into the levy pot and it must not be seen as just another tax. 

“The levy money does not have to be spent on employing additional recruits into apprenticeships and increasing your pay bill, but instead it can be used to upskill your existing workforce so that they have the skills and capabilities to both progress in your organisation and also to improve the productivity and diversity of your business.” 

The conference was open to employers of all sizes and provided a variety of workshops to help people understand the levy process. All employer types were catered for, including the public sector where special rules apply.

Employers networking at SGS
Employers networking at SGS


Speaking about his own apprenticeship experience, guest speaker and director of Business West, Ian Mean, said: “My apprenticeship journey started at 16 when I left a South London comprehensive school to be a trainee journalist after writing to 120 newspapers trying to get a start in journalism.

"I always wear my apprenticeship badge with pride and over the last twelve years, I have developed apprenticeship campaigns and awards in Gloucestershire which have now been adopted by newspapers all over the country.”

"The levy has been controversial and has attracted a lot of criticism from employers and training providers. In fact, the latest figures from the Department of Education show a 35 per cent drop in uptake of apprenticeship places," Ian continued.

“Those figures are pretty shocking and demonstrate a need for real reform in the system and far stronger support from the government in what they have always trumpeted as a flagship initiative to develop young people and help to fill the urgent skills gap.

The conference's welcome in SGS' Olympus Theatre
The conference's welcome in SGS' Olympus Theatre

“However, I was privileged to be asked to introduce SGS College ’s collaborative apprenticeship event and the sector workshops I witnessed on the day were impressive.

"Sitting in on the construction and engineering segment, I thought that SGS director of apprenticeships, Pat Mcleod, did a great job on really getting into the nitty gritty of apprenticeship application detail, simplifying what is a complex subject for business.”

Over the coming months it is going to be imperative to maintain momentum to ensure regional businesses stay engaged with the apprenticeship agenda and turnaround the worrying downward trend that the government’s recent figures highlight. This will only happen if business is confident in the levy and the processes associated with it, something SGS College aims to influence.

For further information, advice and guidance on SGS College's apprenticeship services and how your business can make best use of the levy contact 0800 0726077 or email apprenticeships@sgscol.ac.uk

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