We’ve had a tumultuous few weeks in politics. This has left a degree of political confusion, which at present seems to have engulfed the apprenticeship levy.
As an apprenticeship provider we’ve been keeping a close eye on developments, namely whether it will go ahead as planned in April.
An update from government was due in June, which would see potential concerns ironed out, along with clarification on some of the greyer areas. Then, before the EU referendum, skills minister Nick Boles said the update would be delayed until after this vote, and that we could expect an update before parliament’s summer recess on 21 July. The date mooted was 14 July.
But these dates have passed, Nick Boles has resigned as skills minister, and Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle has seen responsibility for apprenticeships shift from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to that of the Department for Education.
So there have been big changes that might call the levy into question.
But so far there’s nothing to indicate that the levy will be scrapped, or even delayed. The levy has strong political backing, particularly from new skills minister Robert Halfon, so we’re hopeful that it will be going ahead as planned. Halfon is a big supporter of apprenticeships and we have already seen him hiring apprentices within his new role.
As an apprenticeship provider we are obvious advocates of apprenticeships and the many advantages they offer to both young people and employers. The skills gap in the UK is very real and apprenticeships are a fantastic way of bridging it. Gaining hands-on experience in a workplace environment can’t be replicated in the classroom or lecture theatre – businesses are able to shape and mould young people when they are at their most malleable. Consequently, it’s something every organisation should be keen to take advantage of.
With the levy though, for now it’s a case of waiting for the political dust to settle. We hope that when parliament returns in September we’ll be given a timely update on how things are likely to progress.
Any boost to apprenticeship funding, through the levy or otherwise, will help to enhance the profile of apprenticeships as a career path. They really are a fantastic opportunity to earn and learn, while gaining internationally-recognised qualifications and invaluable workplace experience. So it’s about time they were given the attention they deserve.
Kelly Ball is managing director of apprenticeship provider Positive Outcomes