Government threatens to cut management apprenticeships

Employers and providers say cuts would damage the quality, reputation and volume of management apprenticeships

More than 152 employers and 285 apprentices have called on the government to reject cuts to the funding bands of popular management apprenticeships.

With the government admitting that it will struggle to meet its target of three million apprenticeships by 2020, supporters believe that cuts will further undermine the quality of and early employer investment in the programmes.

The Institute for Apprenticeships has proposed cutting funding from £27,000 to £22,000 for chartered manager degree apprenticeships, from £9,000 to £7,000 for operations manager apprenticeships, and from £5,000 to £4,500 for team leader apprenticeships.

The management and leadership trailblazer group - a group of employers who helped develop and support the new apprenticeship standards - said in a statement that these cuts would 'irrevocably damage the quality, reputation and volume' of management apprenticeships. It added that the proposals should be rejected on the grounds of unrealistic deadlines, incorrect briefing documents and irrelevant information.

The group has called for a detailed assessment to demonstrate the value and benefits being delivered to the economy. Aldi, Asda, Boots, BT, IBM and Tesco are among the companies to have signed an appeal against the proposals.

The apprenticeship levy has struggled since its introduction. According to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) only £207 million out of the £1.39 billion raised for the levy has been withdrawn. With funds expiring next year, employers are concerned the cuts will add further restrictions.

Anne Thomas, head of Serco Education, and one of the employer chairs of the management and leadership trailblazer group, said that her company had benefited from apprenticeship programmes.

“At Serco we’ve invested significantly in building our apprenticeship programmes and have been hugely supportive of the government’s apprenticeship agenda. We’re already seeing the benefits of these new programmes and have been working with new high-quality providers to deliver the management skills our business needs,” she said.

Cuts to the programmes would severely affect organisations’ use of the levy, Thomas said.

“These cuts would clearly undermine our future ability to use our levy on the management skills we need for our future business growth. It also frustrates the hard work of the employer trailblazer group, which has invested significant time and resources into developing high-quality apprenticeships that will no longer be funded as promised.”

The Institute for Apprenticeships claims that the funding bands only reflect the maximum contribution the government will make and should not reflect the full cost of the training for an apprenticeship.

But employers were sold the proposition of a levy where they could reinvest their levy pot in the apprenticeships they most need, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) said.

Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs at the CMI, warned that the move was counteractive, particularly while the country grapples with potential skill shortages due to Brexit.

“We simply can’t see why government is shooting one of its most successful policies in the foot. As the overwhelming outcry from employers demonstrates: it makes so little sense. Especially at a time when so many employers are struggling to recruit the highly-skilled managers and leaders needed to drive up business growth and employee engagement amid the challenges of Brexit,” she said.

However, Wilton added that she's confident ministers will reject the decision. “We are still confident that ministers, who have been so keen to showcase the early success of these programmes and the new management apprentices, will return from recess and reject this ridiculous decision.”