The apprenticeship levy: Better guidance can unlock its business potential

Fay Gibbin says don’t give up on the apprenticeship levy – we just need to understand its benefits better.

If you’re a business owner, or involved in learning and development in your workplace, there’s no doubt that the apprenticeship levy will be a subject of much discussion. Many businesses have voiced their concerns about the confusion the levy is causing and its cost to their business.

One of the key reasons behind this confusion, is that not enough guidance has been given to help employers understand how the levy affects them and about the funds available. I believe with the right guidance more businesses will start to see the rewards the levy can bring.   

Employers want the levy replaced 

The apprenticeship levy is still bedding in having only been introduced in April 2017. You’ll most likely have read the recent reports calling for the apprenticeship levy to be replaced with a training levy. These reports followed a survey carried out by the CIPD which found that more than half of employers who pay the apprenticeship levy, would like to see it replaced.

This has been tailed by official apprenticeship figures released on Thursday 25 January from the Department for Education. It’s reported that in the first quarter of the 2017-18 academic year, there have been 114,000 apprenticeship starts, which is down from 155,600 for the same period in 2016-17.

With a decrease in take-up of apprenticeships, it has only added more fuel to the fire that the levy isn’t working.  


I believe starting again with a new training levy would be counterproductive. We hear echoes across many industries about skills gaps and the importance of training new people. Those skill gaps are only getting wider. Using the funds available through the apprenticeship levy can be part of the solution to help fill those jobs.

Workforces have been boosted with new talent, fresh ideas, and different perspectives. It’s started a pipeline of talent.

A training levy wouldn’t be as robust as the apprenticeship levy. Simple provision of training alone, does not guarantee that young people will have access to the experience they need to hit the ground running or equip them with all the necessary skills required to be a success in their role.

That’s why nothing beats the mix of academic and practical learning that an apprenticeship offers. It doesn’t matter whether your business is in childcare, engineering or hairdressing – the funds are there to take advantage of.

Seek clearer guidance

Rather than scrap the apprenticeship levy, I urge businesses to seek information on how to effectively use the funds available to their team. I agree that the government needs to provide clearer guidance, but there are other sources businesses can tap into.  

I’ve seen what rewards it brings from the businesses who have persevered. Workforces have been boosted with new talent, fresh ideas, and different perspectives. It’s started a pipeline of talent. These are the reasons why the apprenticeship levy was put in place. With the right guidance, more businesses can reap the rewards it brings.

The lack of guidance is undermining the levy’s purpose.

For school leavers, graduates and existing staff

One of the concerns I hear from employers is that they don’t just need fresh talent coming through at entry-level, but they need talent to fill positions in more senior roles to ensure their business remain competitive.

The levy money can be used to fund apprenticeships at all levels that have been approved on the hub. These include higher and degree level apprenticeships which can be used to develop higher technical level skills.

This means the levy can be used to give an existing staff member the opportunity to develop and grow and unleash their potential. It’s just one of the important pieces of guidance employers need to gain a better understanding of the levy.

Speak to a training provider

While a lot of pressure is being put on the government to provide clearer information, approved apprenticeship training providers can advise businesses of any size on the levy and help to plug those knowledge gaps.

Training providers know the ins and outs of the levy and can support not only with it, but with helping to utilise the funds available to bring in new talent or give existing members a boost to move up the ladder.


About the author

Fay Gibbin is chief executive officer of BB Training Academy


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