An apprenticeship levy is set to be introduced in 2017, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) announced today.
Confirmation of plans to bring in the levy for large businesses in two years came as Bis unveiled a package of "radical plans” to help it meet its target of creating 3 million apprenticeships by the time of the next election.
It will today launch a consultation on the levy, asking for views on how it can be used to increase investment in training and apprenticeships, and how funding generated by the levy should be spent in England.
“Under the proposed approach, employers that put in funds will have direct spending power over it,” a Bis statement said.
Last month, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers called for the levy's introduction to be put back for three to four years to allow for a “cultural shift” in employers.
But Bis also announced that from 1 September, all companies bidding for government contracts worth more than £10 million will be required to “demonstrate a clear commitment to apprenticeships” by ensuring a “reasonable proportion of their workforce in an apprenticeship or formal training programme”.
“The move is aimed at widening the scope of businesses offering apprenticeships, and with more than £50 billion a year spent on government procurement contracts, will provide a significant boost in apprenticeship numbers.”
It was also announced that 59 new apprenticeship standards developed by Trailblazer groups of employers and businesses have been approved. The industry standards, which cover a range of professions – including nuclear engineers, fashion assistants and welders – will outline the skills apprentices in these roles are expected to have to meet the needs of employers.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin also announced an ambition to create 30,000 apprenticeship places in the sector during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said introducing the levy was a “genuinely bold decision from the government" which "could be great news for the future of skills training in England”.
“However, small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the government must ensure that they, and their staff, can also benefit from the funding created by the levy,” he added.