This seminar assessed 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 heard discussion on quality and take-up of the apprenticeship programme since the reform, and on the stability of the apprenticeship budget following concerns raised in the Public Accounts Committee’s progress review inquiry.
Those attending considered the current and future operation of the levy, including changes 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.
There was 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 among smaller firms who do not have access to levy funds.
Delegates also considered 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.
The discussion came in the context of the ESFA opening 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.
Sessions looked at the possibility of further reforms to the levy, with the ESFA due to consult on its long-term operation. There was 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 levels 2 and 3.
The seminar explored research by the CIPD 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.