A group of large levy-paying employers is calling on the government to leave the apprenticeship levy alone, while preserving entry points to apprenticeships at all levels.
The employers are also urging the government to recognise that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need to have their apprenticeships properly funded and have skilled supply chains.
Former skills and apprenticeships minister Anne Milton has come out in support of the employers, saying progress made on improving quality could be endangered by making changes too soon.
She said: "The proposals [being made by employers] require additional government investment in apprenticeships and I hope that the chancellor will recognise this in the budget, and demonstrate the need he has articulated to support more skills training across the country.”
The employers' statement, published today by the Association of Learning and Education Providers (ALEP), is signed by 15 employers including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Coca-Cola European Partners and Health Education England. It has ten key points.
- The employers are supportive of apprenticeship reform and do not want significant change - enhancement, they say, should be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
- They believe that apprenticeships must provide unconstrained entry points into employment which will vary from employer to employer, and job to job.
- Any apprenticeship reforms should be employer-led, they say, and employers must be free to spend their levy in line with their strategy and planning.
- The employers call for the government to commit to a ring-fenced and guaranteed non-levy budget of at least £1.5bn for SMEs and have separate, segregated funding approaches between levy and non-levy paying employers.
- “Apprenticeships for 16-to 18-year-olds should be funded separately out of the Department of Education’s 16 to 18 budget,” they say.
- The employers argue that degree apprenticeships have widened access, driven progression, improved retention and changed employee perceptions.
- However, they do say that progression to higher-level apprenticeships is not the only measure of success - and that promotions, salary increases and productivity improvements are equally valued by all.
- The employers say: “Work-based maths and English cannot be successfully delivered while the funding is not equal to other learners.”
- They also say that there’s too much unnecessary and disproportionate bureaucracy within the apprenticeship system and that the government needs to trust them to deliver the 20 per cent off-the job-training.
- The employers say that they want to help the government “simplify the rules” and says that a more concise and targeted approach is required on aspects like the off-the-job training.