Skills Minister Nick Boles MP has announced that there would be a “little delay” in providing further funding information following the British public’s decision to leave the European Union.
Boyles who spoke at the Association of Learning Providers conference last week, remained positive on the reforms and said “we should all continue to assume and work on the assumption that the apprenticeship levy is coming in, as planned.”.
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This was echoed by Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the Education Funding Agency (EFA). Mr Lauener stated that he reinforces the optimism on apprenticeship levy, and that the “materials are nearly there and will be out very soon”.
Although this delay will be a setback for employers hoping for certainty for their Levy implementation planning, the message was strongly that the launch will go ahead as planned for April 2017.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), was among those who argued it was now more important than ever to press ahead with apprenticeship plans. “If anything, the referendum result means that a skilled British workforce will be needed more than ever,” he said, “so the target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 takes on a new significance.”
Mr Dawe also stressed the need for “clarity” from the government on its levy plans. “I can understand they’ll pause for a moment and think, but if we don’t know what’s going to happen it’s going to by default not happen in April.”
These views were echoed by Professor Alison Wolf, who made the case for an employer levy to fund apprenticeship training in a report published days before the government first unveiled the charge last July.
She told FE Week, which was reporting on the conference events, that “skills policy has become more important than ever” in the light of the referendum result. If the UK decides to opt out of the free movement of labour within Europe, she said, “the need to increase our skilled, level three apprenticeship numbers will be more pressing than ever”.
But Gordon Marsden, shadow skills minister, warned that if companies’ “collaboration and cooperation with European companies in building things and winning contracts was being diminished, then obviously either their ability to or their need to recruit more highly skilled apprenticeships could become quite volatile.”
So what now? With the announcement on funding rates as well as further logistical information on the Levy due out shortly, the Tech Partnership will continue to support employers in implementing their Levy plans. Further information will be communicated via the Partnership as soon as it is released by Government.