The majority of eligible businesses are not capitalising on the apprenticeship levy, new research by Evolve Learning Group and West London College reveals.
The survey, which sampled 1,005 employers with more than 150 employees, found that 32 per cent of employers who pay the levy were using the funds to train new and existing staff. In London, only one in six employers utilised their apprenticeship levy funds.
Despite this, nine in 10 employers said they found it difficult to recruit staff with the right skills and 21 per cent said it was “extremely problematic”.
Meanwhile, 78 per cent of businesses said that more needed to be done to increase understanding of the apprenticeship levy's value, while 80 per cent said businesses had to be engaged better in using the levy. Just more than a third (37 per cent) said they fully understood the levy and how it could help their business.
“Businesses are missing a trick,” said Garry Phillips, chief executive of West London College. “By not tapping into the levy companies are passing up on the opportunity to improve existing staff skills and bring new employees on board.”
Stuart Rowberry, resourcing and development business partner at OCS Group said: “I think many businesses are confused about how to use the levy, but with a limited period of time in which to invest the money, these businesses need to take action now or the money will be gone.
“I think one of the issues is that businesses have just seen the levy as a means of training new staff. They are also a great way to upskill existing staff so they can take on more responsibility and develop their careers.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Education said: "Our apprenticeship reforms put control back into the hands of employers. We are aware that there will be a period of adjustment while employers plan ahead to make sure they can maximise the opportunities that apprenticeships can bring to their organisation.
“However, throughout the development of the apprenticeship levy, we have involved thousands of employers and training providers, helping them to understand how much levy they will pay and how they could use their funds to pay for training. We want to make sure we reach are 3 million high quality apprenticeships starts in England by 2020, and are on track to deliver this, with over 1 million starts since May 2015."