Following the introduction of an Apprenticeships Levy in George Osborne’s summer budget, a consultation document was launched in late August. The objective is to deliver three million new apprentice starts in England over the next five years.
Controversially, the rather confused consultation document from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills calls for a UK-wide levy of companies operating in England. Initial plans are that this should be assessed on the basis of employee earnings and paid through the companies’ PAYE return to HMRC.
The levy will apply only to ‘larger companies’ but what this means is not clear at this stage. Strangely also, the consultation acknowledges that the vast majority of apprentice training is done in small businesses. The consultation asks whether the planned financial assessments levied on large companies should be used to pay for small companies also.
The consultation document claims that the new system will put the training of apprentices firmly in the hands of employers who, using a voucher system, will be able to select the apprentice training they wish.
The prospect of individual employers spending government vouchers on training programmes from multiple providers offers a view of the future where nobody in the industry will know who has been taught what by who.
SELECT will be taking a long considered look at the consultation before responding but two things in particular are of concern.
The first is potential for unfairness and confusion arising from levies charged to companies based in Scotland for their activities in England.
The second is the potential for damage to Scotland’s biggest apprenticeship – the SJIB’s level 3 Apprenticeship in Electrical Installation. Thankfully, Scotland’s First Minister has made it clear that Scotland will continue with employed-status, employer- led Modern Apprenticeships under the wing of the Scottish
Qualifications Authority. We’re with you on that one, Nicola.