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Thames Valley: Is apprenticeship levy a missed opportunity?

By Dan Teuton
19 December 2017

Eight months on from the launch of the apprenticeship levy and a British Chambers of Commerce survey has revealed that two-thirds (66%) of businesses have either not taken any direct action to use the apprenticeship levy funds or do not know about them, writes Chris Mundy, partner at Grant Thornton in the Thames Valley.

The research also found that 23% of levy-paying organisations still don’t understand how the levy works or know how their company should respond to it.

While reports of the apprenticeship levy’s uptake show it has been slow, research by Evolve Learning Group and West London College found that 90% of employers find it problematic to recruit individuals with the right skills for their business and 21% report it is extremely problematic. This indicates that there is a huge opportunity for businesses to be educated on the levy’s benefits and to make apprenticeships a higher priority. After all, the Government will fund 90% of additional apprenticeship costs in the case of a levy payer who has used up their own levy contributions. Non-levy payers should also benefit from this funding from the beginning of 2018.  

Our recent Vibrant Economy Index found that Oxford is one of the most dynamic business environments in the UK and the proportion of the population with high-level skills is almost double the national average (63.5%, compared with the national average of 36.7%). There is so much to celebrate and be proud of but there is still a group of NEETS (Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training) who are missing out on this opportunity. Around 4% of young people in Oxford are NEETS and while the apprenticeship levy cannot solve this skills gap entirely, it can certainly contribute towards bridging it.

Apprenticeships are a vital part of our economy and employment market and more school leavers than ever are opting to go down the training route. Just last month, we launched the first Executive MBA programme in England to use the apprenticeship levy at Cranfield School of Management. For the first time, employers that pay the apprenticeship levy will be able to use their levy funds to pay for employees to access a world-class management education which may previously have been inaccessible.

The very best firms are the ones with a motivated, highly-skilled and trained workforce. A successful apprenticeship scheme should instil a strong work ethic, professional pride and high standards into the participants, as well as encouraging extra-curricular activities for personal development.

Apprenticeships and training of the very highest calibre play a crucial role in helping people and businesses thrive. Our talented people, with their desire and determination to learn, hold the key to boosting businesses in the region, and we would encourage all businesses to consider how they might be able to use the apprenticeship levy to their advantage.

The apprenticeship schemes available through the levy provide a structure, which can be developed into a training programme to suit the needs of a workforce and wider business. Training can be designed to suit the needs of a business and the requirements of the individual in that role, in addition to specified training for that apprenticeship.

The levy is an opportunity to have a root and branch review of your organisation, re-think your approach to workforce development and further grow your business, so why not use it to your advantage?

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