“Significant concerns” still surround the apprenticeship levy's potential to deliver high-quality training for businesses and apprentices, the CBI has warned.
On the day that the levy was launched, the business lobbying organisation has said that the government needs to “broaden” its focus to make it a success. "[The government's] focus so far has been on building an operational system that works," the CBI said in a statement. "Now the policy has been introduced...the government [needs] to broaden its focus, prioritising quality and long-term success measures alongside growing apprentice numbers."
The CBI said that major concerns still surrounded the apprenticeship levy, including slow progress in approving new apprenticeship standards, and ineffective careers guidance in schools, and it has drawn up a list of six recommendations for government.
Six ways to improve the apprenticeship levy
- The establishment long-term measures of success by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), agreed in partnership with businesses.
- Support the IfA and help it to understand what quality training looks like for businesses.
- Support collaboration between the IfA and businesses to help improve market regulation of college and private providers and challenge poor quality provision.
- Focus on increasing the pace of approval of new apprenticeship standards across all industries.
- Give employers longer than 24 months to spend their levy vouchers.
- Consider a more flexible skills levy to support apprentices and retrain adults.
Neil Carberry, director for people and skills policy at the CBI, said: “Given the speed and scale of the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, businesses have been working hard to get ready against a tight timescale. Now that the system for paying and reclaiming the levy has gone live, the time has come to focus on quality training that meets company and apprentice needs.
“For the levy to be a success, it must deliver long-lasting careers, and close skills gaps – not just create more apprenticeships. Shifting the focus on to quality is essential to delivering much-needed stability to England’s skills system. That’s why business is focused on helping the IfA get this right. As it stands, there is a genuine risk that firms aren’t going to be able to use their funds if the system does not deliver the training apprentices need.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Education said: “We want to build a world-class education and skills system that will give everyone a chance to climb the ladder of opportunity to rewarding careers.
“Quality is at the heart of our reforms. That is why we have given employers more freedom than ever before to design training that works for them and ensure it delivers the skills and knowledge that our economy needs. We have been working closely with employer bodies, including the CBI, to help them and their members prepare to make the most of the opportunities available.”
'An apprenticeship and skills nation'
The DfE has said that the levy will "double the annual investment in apprenticeships in England to £2.5 billion by 2019-20, compared with 2010-11 levels".
Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon said: "More than 90 per cent of apprentices go into work or further training, and the quality on-the-job training on offer will make sure we have the people with the skills, knowledge and technical excellence to drive our country forward. Building an 'apprenticeship and skills nation' is essential in ensuring that we have the home-grown workforce we need in post-Brexit Britain to address the skills shortages facing industry and give everyone the chance to succeed.”