The Apprenticeship Levy: Will it improve the UK’s digital skills?

Will the UK’s digital skills shortage be helped by the Apprenticeship Levy? For National Apprenticeship Week, Jazz Gandhum digs into the issue. 

On Wednesday 1 March 2017 the Government announced a new strategy to help overcome the UK’s growing digital skills gap, with the likes of Lloyds Bank, Barclays and Google stepping up to the plate to offer funded digital training and development. 

According to Government officials, this new strategy will serve a dual purpose – supporting the development of professionals within the ever-evolving digital landscape, whilst ensuring the UK will not suffer when Brexit finally hits – making “…Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, trial a new technology, or undertake advanced research…”

The announcement even recognised the value of the education technology sector, where a further £17.3m funding boost has been implemented to support the development of new robotics and Artificial Intelligence [AI] technologies at different universities across the UK. 

Could the Apprenticeship Levy help?

The timing of this announcement could not be more paramount. From Monday 6 March, the UK will mark the 10th anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week – an awareness event designed to bring together apprentices and employers to celebrate the success of apprenticeship programmes over the past decade.  

Roll forward another 30 days and UK employers with an annual wage bill of £3m plus will start to pay the Apprenticeship Levy: a new employment tax that has been developed to aid the creation of three million additional apprenticeship opportunities by 2020. 

 For employers that do have to pay the Levy, take the time to understand how you can really benefit, and reap as much back in apprentices or training as possible.

Moving the phrase ‘employment tax’ aside, the Apprenticeship Levy represents an exciting development for the UK business sector, with a real potential to help revolutionise the UK workforce by providing access to accredited training providers and development opportunities, including – you guessed it – courses to help fill the digital skills gap. 

Will the Apprenticeship Levy benefit all UK businesses?

For those unaware of how this will work – the funds collected through the Apprenticeship Levy can be accessed via the government’s new Digital Apprenticeship Service or ‘DAS’ account. Businesses paying the Levy will receive a 10% ‘top-up’ from the government for their contributions, and are encouraged to then use these funds in order to source an apprentice candidate or for use on training and development opportunities for their existing workforce – all implemented by a government accredited training provider. 

Businesses that do not have to pay the Levy [i.e. have a wage bill below £3m per year] will also have access to their own DAS account, but will pay just 10% of the usual cost for an apprenticeship. 

The aim of the game here, so to speak, is to be proactive as possible. For employers that do have to pay the Levy, take the time to understand how you can really benefit, and reap as much back in apprentices or training as possible.

From helping your current workforce upskill or advance their digital skillset, to providing the opportunity for an apprentice to develop their career within your firm, the Levy can really help develop your workforce with the added support of accredited training providers. 

For businesses that do not have to pay the Levy, think about how you too could benefit from an apprentice or training at a reduced cost. From diplomas in digital marketing and social media, to certificates in accountancy and project management – the Apprenticeship Levy has the potential to help you really shape your workforce and have the skills in house that you need to grow and develop your business.  

The new Apprenticeship Levy should be thought of with a ‘glass half-full’ approach. Ok, so an additional employment tax may be a daunting prospect for many businesses – but for your business to grow and develop in the digital age you need skilled staff members with a willingness to learn, and thankfully the Apprenticeship Levy can provide just that.  


About the author

Jazz Gandhum is CEO of edtech firm, e-Careers


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