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Apprenticeship Levy not the “Magic Wand” to End the Skills Gap

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The apprenticeship levy which comes into force in a matter of weeks (from 6 April) is intended to help fund three million apprenticeships by 2020, but Kate Arnott, Manufacturing & Engineering specialist at accountants’ MHA MacIntyre Hudson calls on the Government to provide urgent clarity:

“Businesses that invest in apprenticeships as well as training and development for existing staff are reaping the rewards of a diversified, skilled and qualified workforce, and demonstrate greater efficiency and innovation; however, the Apprenticeship Levy is not the magic wand to close the skills gap and there are real concerns around its key elements.

“At present the levy is adding further layers of confusion and many businesses will struggle to take out as much as they put in; especially in areas where registered education providers cannot keep pace with industry requirements. Other issues surround the proposed funding bands for framework apprenticeships, which, for example, may cut funding for construction apprenticeships by up to 30%.

“Conversely, arguments to delay the launch do little to support the UK’s assertion that we are dynamic, adaptable and able to seize the opportunity. The Government must act quickly to provide clarity on the ever mounting number of questions industry leaders are posing.

“It remains to be seen if this initiative will make up for years of underinvestment in apprenticeships, which has helped lead to the looming skills crisis we currently face. With 800,000 skilled engineers due to retire over the next decade, it’s crucial that action is taken now to ensure that expertise and knowledge filters through to the next generation.

“The UK excels in hi-tech industries but the rest of the world does not sit still. To maintain our position, we need to act now by investing in a more highly skilled workforce.”