Westminster Employment Forum

Next steps for apprenticeship funding in England - the future for the levy, priorities for business and improving apprenticeship take-up

Morning, Tuesday, 8th October 2019

Central London


This seminar will assess the next steps for apprenticeship funding and delivery in England - including the future of the levy, priorities for employers and students, and how to improve apprenticeship take-up.

We also expect discussion on quality and take-up of the apprenticeship programme since reform, and on the stability of the apprenticeship budget following concerns raised in the Public Accounts Committee’s progress review inquiry.

This seminar will also offer an opportunity to consider government policy regarding apprenticeship uptake, in the context of recent comments by the Secretary of State, confirming that the manifesto target of 3 million starts by 2020 will not be achieved.  

Those attending will consider the current and future operation of the levy, including changes in April this year such as a reduction in the co-investment rate for non-levy paying firms, and an increase in the percentage that levy paying firms can transfer to smaller firms in their supply chain.

We expect discussion on whether the changes introduced in April do enough to increase the flexibility of levy funds, especially for large firms with limited scope to take on apprenticeships, and to support take-up amongst smaller firms who do not have access to levy funds.

Delegates will also consider the case of small businesses that fall outside the scope of the levy, with concerns surrounding the affordability and availability of funding meaning that many SMEs are not benefitting from the current programme. There will be discussion on further potential reform to improve take-up, such as the introduction of incentive schemes, and delegating greater control of levy funds to small businesses.

The discussion takes place as the ESFA opens an Expressions of Interest (EOI) for small and medium sized apprenticeship employers and supporting training providers to help develop the apprenticeship service, amid calls for full access to the apprenticeship service to be expanded to include SMEs.

Further sessions will look at the possibility of further reforms to the levy, with the ESFA due to consult on its long term operation. There will be discussion on its future scope and the targeting of funds, particularly with the expansion of higher level apprenticeships and a stagnation of growth in apprenticeships at level 2 and 3.

The seminar also includes a speaking contribution from Lizzie Crowley, Skills Policy Advisor at the CIPD, who has recently published new research putting forward the case for the expansion of the apprenticeship levy into a broader training levy applicable to all businesses with more than 50 employers, as well as regional skills funds to address local needs.

The seminar will be an opportunity to assess the potential impact on apprenticeship take-up at all levels of recommendations in the recently published Augar Review - including that all adults should be entitled to their first level 2 and 3 qualifications for free, and that funding for level 6 apprenticeships should only be available for those that have not previously undertaken a degree. 

In the context of ongoing reviews of apprenticeship funding bands by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, further sessions discuss the process for funding band decisions, and the impact of funding band changes for individual standards, with concerns over value for money and financial viability in cases of funding reductions. 

Keynote Speakers

Keith Smith

Director, Apprenticeships, ESFA

John Cope

Head, Education and Skills, CBI

Supported by

Keynote Speakers

Keith Smith

Director, Apprenticeships, ESFA

John Cope

Head, Education and Skills, CBI


Lord Young of Norwood Green

Apprenticeship Ambassador and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills and Apprenticeships

Lord Baker

Chair, Edge Foundation; Chair, Baker Dearing Educational Trust and Co-Founder, University Technical Colleges


Rob Wall

Head of Policy, CMI

Mark Dawe

Chief Executive, AELP

Anthony Impey

Chair, Skills Policy Board, Federation of Small Business

Mark Donnelly

Head, Apprenticeship and Skills, BAE Systems

Professor Sandra McNally

Professor of Economics, University of Surrey and Director, Centre for Vocational Education Research, London School of Economics and Political Science

Louise Doyle

Director, Mesma and Senior Associate, Strategic Development Network

Kirstie Donnelly

Managing Director, City & Guilds

Louise Knott

Vice Principal, Communications, Engagement and Student Experience, Vision West Nottinghamshire College

Lizzie Crowley

Skills Policy Advisor, CIPD

David Nash

Head, Policy and Corporate Affairs, Engineering and Construction Industry Training Board