Apprenticeships – back to the future?

1 min read

Back in the summer Chancellor George Osborne announced a new levy to help reach a target of 3million new apprenticeships by 2020. Funded by business the levy, due to be introduced in 2017, is intended to tackle the UK’s skills shortage.

The government has pitched this idea to business as a way of ending years of under-investment in training but is now facing a backlash from business.

There are concerns that the scheme could see employers re-badge existing jobs as apprenticeships as a way of not only hitting training targets but also as a way of recouping costs associated with the levy – or what is being described as a ‘tax on business’ by the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

The EEF is also expressing doubts that the 3million target is achievable.

The CBI has also raised concerns, worried at the cost of the scheme to business at a time when firms are already investing over £40bn a year on formal training and increasing apprenticeships.

Both are worried that the new scheme could undermine the existing system rather than strengthening it.

Described by the CBI as a ‘pile-them-high, sell-them-cheap’ approach it warns that it will do nothing to increase the quality of apprenticeships or hit the government’s 3m target.

In fact a survey of big employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the trade association for the human resources sector has shown that almost a third (31%) believed the levy would cause them to reduce their investment in other areas of workforce training and development.

Boosting both numbers and the quality of apprenticeships in the UK will certainly be a challenge.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s there was something called the Engineering Industrial Training Board, it levied a charge on employers, but employers who provided good training were exempted.

While it might not have been perfect manufacturing companies did have access to better training policies, proper apprenticeships, and ultimately a more skilled national labour pool.

What goes around comes around, but hasn’t it taken along time getting there?