· Features

Is the apprenticeship levy working?

A year on from the introduction of the levy we ask two organisations for their thoughts

No: Jane Hubbard, director of HR at Chester Zoo

“I don’t think that calling it the apprenticeship levy has been helpful. This isn’t going to entice organisations to recruit new staff as there are enough pay pressures with the National Living Wage.

As a charity, we’re mindful of every penny we spend and so my training budget has been reduced to offset the costs of the levy. I cannot use the levy funding to accommodate the type of training the zoo needs. So there’s been a double whammy of a reduced annual training budget and effectively paying for a levy I can’t use.

I’m also saddened by the ‘bandwagon’ of inflated costs for putting people on what is essentially the same course. In some instances course costs have tripled. This is evident where apprenticeships replace NVQs when all that is added is an end-point assessment, yet the providers now charge the maximum £9,000 rather than the previous £2,000. In addition, we have the option of professional qualifications at £2,000 or £3,000 or to use the apprenticeship funding and pay £9,000. For example, this applies to both CIMA and CIPS courses. The requirement for the role is the professional qualification. On-the-job experience allows knowledge to be embedded and skills to be developed with time and management, so although this is not funded by the levy we have chosen that route.

We aren’t taking on apprentices per se, but any spend on training adds to an organisation’s expertise. The difficulty for us is that there aren’t the types of training courses that we’d benefit from as a world-class zoo. Far more should have been done to help professions set up trailblazing qualifications in preparation for the levy. Awarding bodies and education providers could have been assisting trades/professions to develop appropriate training before the start of the levy so that we could have started to spend immediately. I fear that for many organisations this will simply be seen as an additional tax to pay, which isn’t going to help businesses tackle the skills shortage and remain competitive.”

Yes: Sarah Jane Henly, HR director at EE

“At EE we’re always looking for enthusiastic and talented people to join our team. It’s why we launched our apprenticeship scheme in 2012, and in 2017 alone we invested in 465 apprentices, offering opportunities across all areas of the business: from technical engineers through to our customer service teams, as well as many head office roles.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity to get a headstart in your career, opening doors for young people leaving school who can receive on-the-job training while working towards qualifications. We’ve seen a hugely positive impact at EE since the scheme began and this is one of the reasons we were ranked first in The Sunday Times’ Best Places to Work 2018. The apprenticeship levy helps us continue our investment and development of this programme.

And with so many of our apprentices staying on after they complete the scheme (95% of our 2017 apprentices are still with us today), it has never been more important to continue growing our apprenticeship programme and nurturing the talent that comes through it. This in turn filters down to our customers, providing them with the best possible experience and service every time they speak to us.

We hope the levy will encourage more companies across the UK to offer apprenticeships so young people have more choice when they’re leaving school, and the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their chosen career from day one, while being able to share new ways of thinking with others in the business.”

Further reading

Taking stock of the apprenticeship levy