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Employers and government must prioritise young apprentices

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YMCA England chief executive says more apprenticeships suitable for 16- to 24-year-olds must be provided once the levy comes in

Employers should offer more entry-level apprenticeships to ensure young people are prioritised when the government introduces new funding arrangements, a national youth charity head has urged.

YMCA England chief executive Denise Hatton is concerned the apprenticeship levy (which comes into force in April 2017) will not buck a trend of employers offering work schemes more suited to older employees.

In 2013/14 to 2014/15 43% of apprentices were aged 25 or above when they started, according to government figures.

Hatton would like the government to create incentives for businesses to provide apprenticeships to the 16 to 24 age group. She suggested the government build an element into funding arrangements that prioritises taking on young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Just because funding will be accessible to provide apprenticeships it does not necessarily ensure that they are the right apprenticeships for young people, or delivered at the right level,” Hatton told HR magazine.

“Just over a third of apprenticeships started in 2014/15 were at an Advanced or Higher level [level three or four – equivalent to two A level passes or foundation degree and above]. If we want to give young people the broadest array of apprenticeships then government needs to ensure that opportunities provided by businesses are accessible and appropriate to the needs of young people – not just the employer.”

The apprenticeship levy will require all UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million a year to invest 0.5% of their annual wage bill in apprenticeships, after a £15,000 allowance.

YMCA England, which covers England and Wales, offers more than 3,000 apprenticeships a year for 16- to 30-year-olds.

In 2013/14 to 2014/15 499,900 people took up apprenticeship schemes.