Much was made of the revelation last month that only 8% of Apprenticeship Levy funds have been spent, and therefore £1.28bn remains in employer digital accounts. This combined with dwindling Apprenticeships starts when compared to last year, meaning the 3m Apprenticeship target set across the duration of this Government appears very unlikely, has mot quarters deeming the Apprenticeship reforms a failure.
I disagree for the following reasons:
- Part of the Apprenticeship reforms was the programme would no longer be a financial burden on public spending, and that funds raised through the Levy would fund the programme with SMEs. It was mooted at the time the Government expected only 50% of Levied funds to be spent, so the underperformance isn’t so severe and has removed the burden the public purse = success.
- I’ve not seen any statistics but I’m fairly confident that large employers are doing more Apprenticeship training than they’ve ever done, the current failure in volumes is within the SME sector and their requirement to fund 10% of course fees.
- Most importantly the new Apprenticeship Standards and the (often unpopular) 20% “off the job” training rule are ensuring programmes are underpinned by training that delivers new skills. This is a major focus for Ofsted when assessing the quality of Apprenticeship provision – I have first-hand experience of this during LCoATs monitoring visit by Ofsted in February 2018.
The major challenge remains for training providers to meet employer expectations within the Apprenticeship Standards/Reforms, in particular, they require a commercial feel to training elements. A failure to meet this expectation and the employer will question why they should commit to training, even if it means losing their Apprenticeship Levy funds.
We are now entering the second year of the Apprenticeship Levy, so in around 11 months’ time, employers will start to lose unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds. The reality is programmes need to start much sooner than that, leaving it till the last month will mean an unviable number of employees needing to be engaged to maximise the funding.
So if you are an employer with Apprenticeship Levy funds within the 92% unspent, act now to find a training provider(s) that deliver the commercially focussed programme you want. There are plenty of providers able to do this, including the Apprenticeship College (LCoAT) if you want to discuss your plans with us.
Feel free to pick up the phone today, I’m available on 07989 595538, or at Graham.Howe@apprenticeship-college.co.uk