· News

Nick Boles: "Employers will look back on levy as sea change"

The skills minister said the levy would be "painful" but promised to give employers more control

Skills minister Nick Boles has promised employers will “look back [on the apprenticeship levy] and say ‘we didn’t want the levy and we didn’t agree entirely with it, but we have to agree it’s created a sea change’”.

Boles made his comments at the launch of an Automotive Apprenticeship Matching Service designed to divert candidates from oversubscribed programmes to companies less able to access good quality talent.

Boles detailed the way the government would be “putting [employees] in control of every stage of the process.” He said: “We’ll continue to put you in control of the development of standards for apprentices… So if you have a new occupation not currently covered it’s up to you to get together with others in the same industry to propose a standard and go out and develop it.”

The levy is designed to tackle “the number of free riders in the system,” said Boles, defining this as “the number of your competitors who think ‘we are not going to bother with that, we’re just going to poach people that come out of the system.’”

Boles added: “I know it’s going to be painful and there will be some of you who will be dissatisfied with some of the final details”. He assured though that the government is “spending dramatically more on apprenticeships”.

Also speaking at the matching service launch was Elle Hart, HR dircetor at fuel efficiency technology developer Torotrak. She described how the new matching service complements the introduction of the levy by helping businesses benefit from the money they now have to put aside.

“We’ve toyed with the idea of apprenticeships in the past,” she reported. “But there’s always the question of how much time is it going to take, are we going to be able to give these guys and girls the input they require?” She added that difficulty attracting good quality candidates with a less well-known brand was also a factor, but that the matching services’ partnership approach combated this.

The launch of the scheme came as new research carried out by Semta, on behalf of the Automotive Industrial Partnership (AIP), was published, finding that up to 5,000 jobs in the sector could be vacant because of skills shortages. “This [the matching service] will ensure a pipeline of talent in the years ahead,” explained Stephen Spencer, chair of the Automotive Apprenticeship Matching Service.

Jose Lopes, chair of the AIP and head of technical excellence at Jaguar Land Rover, said he expected to see this kind of matching service taken up outside of the automotive sector. “We have an agnostic platform I’d like to see other sectors benefiting from,” he said.

The matching service has been developed and funded through the AIP and facilitated by apprenticeship matching platform GetMyFirstJob. It is designed to help up to 10,000 candidates per year secure an automotive apprenticeship.