Apprenticeship levy used for 'well-qualified' staff

A King's College London report raises concerns about businesses using levy funds to up-skill existing employees

Kate Parker

Apprenticeship levy: businesses attract heavy criticism for use of funds

Another major report has hit out at businesses using apprenticeship levy funds to train already-qualified existing employees. 

The King's College London report, Varieties of institutional renewal: The case of apprenticeship in the US, England, and Australia, shared exclusively with Tes, raises concerns about the impact that the apprenticeship levy has had on the system.

It notes that although UK apprenticeship starts have increased by 400 per cent since 1996, both trade and non-trade apprenticeships have fallen since the levy was introduced. 

Background: Could sharing apprentices be the answer for businesses?

News: £1.2bn spent on 'fake' apprenticeships

Need to know: What the Queen’s Speech says about further education

The report analyses apprenticeship growth and reform across England, the US and Australia - and highlights the difficulties of expanding apprenticeship numbers, especially in industries with little historical experience of this form of training.

Howard Gospel, one of the authors of the report, said that the levy had not delivered on the high hopes for what it might achieve. 

 “There are multiple reasons for disenchantment with the apprenticeship levy. Some employers see it as too complex, or excessively interventionist. Other commentators are concerned that it is funding already well qualified existing employees on degree and other higher qualifications,” he added. 

The report highlighted the continuing questions about apprenticeship quality, with some businesses not engaging and “low coupling” between the top-down government initiatives and bottom-up training investments. 

Last week think tank EDSK released a damning report in which it labelled half of all apprenticeships as “fake”. 

It was found that almost one in 10 apprenticeships were “team leader/supervisor”, making it the most popular apprenticeship route. The report revealed that employers have used up over £550 million of levy funding on rebadged management training and professional development courses for more experienced employees. 

The Conservative government reaffirmed its commitment to the FE sector in December's Queen's speech, but has so far revealed no specific plans for reforming the apprenticeship levy. 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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