Britain’s manufacturers are calling for an urgent summit with Government to discuss fundamental reforms to make the Apprenticeship Levy work, and to ensure the creation of additional numbers of high value manufacturing and engineering Apprenticeships.
The call comes on the back of a survey by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation showing overwhelming support for sweeping reforms to the operation of the Levy and the latest figures for overall Apprenticeship Starts showing a 31% fall in starts for January 2018 compared to the same period last year.
“Everyone shares the ambition of creating high quality Apprenticeships which are essential if industry is going to access the skills it will need in the future, especially in a post Brexit world where fewer skilled workers will come to the UK,” Verity Davidge, EEF head of education & skills policy, said. “But, whilst the Apprentice Levy had laudable aims its impact has been highly damaging for Employers and Apprentices, and what should have been a win-win situation has turned into a lose-lose. We have to address the alarming drop in starts initially and then look at positive solutions which are on the table to make the levy work for employers and learners in the long term.
“Government must now sit down with business and find a way to rescue the Levy so that it meets the original pledges made to companies when it was introduced.”
According to the survey just 5% of companies want to leave the levy as it is. The majority (52%) want to keep the Levy but see improvements made to current system and a quarter (26%) want the levy to turn into a training levy.
Furthermore, 8% of companies have cancelled or delayed engineering apprenticeships for a new recruit specifically because of the Levy while 11% of companies looking to start an engineering apprenticeship for an existing employee have cancelled or delayed it specifically because of the Levy.
The survey also backs criticism that the Levy was rushed in as over half of companies (54%) said Apprenticeship standards have not been ready for delivery, whilst two fifths of companies say colleges and training providers are either unable or unwilling to deliver the Apprenticeships that manufacturers want.
The UK’s largest independent charity specialising in linking business and education, EDT, UK provider of STEM outreach, has added its voice to the debate around the Apprenticeship Levy following the call by EEF for considerable changes to improve the working of the levy.
“EEF are highlighting serious issues in their recent research and in our many conversations with manufacturing employers we can confirm the conclusions they have reached,” Julie Feest, CEO of EDT, said. “There is, however, another aspect of the struggle to bring on board apprentices in engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills, that is the issue of drawing through the right candidates for apprenticeships from the education system.
“It is widely recognised that insufficient numbers of suitable young people are presenting themselves to STEM industry and that the way to avoid the best candidates from drifting away from these careers during education is to provide them with insights into what STEM industry careers involve. The availability of well specified and relevant apprenticeships is very important but so too is the attraction of numbers of good candidates for those apprenticeships, particularly girls who present for STEM apprenticeships in tiny numbers.
“Any new flexibility in the Levy system resulting from discussions with government should allow unused funds to be invested by employers in programmes such as Industrial Cadets which ensures high quality pull through of candidates into Apprenticeships from education, thus providing employers with a diverse pool of STEM talent to draw from.”