UK’S apprenticeship levy promotes cost recovery rather than effective training, study reveals

Just over a quarter of employers plan to cut back on non-apprenticeship training, while 23% expect to reduce their graduate intake.

Although nearly three out of five UK employers intend to offer more apprenticeship programmes following this April’s introduction of the £2 billion levy, many are simply tweaking existing training provision to fit, according to research.

The 2017 CBI and Pearson Education and Skills Survey revealed that a huge 63% of the 344 organisations questioned intended to rework their existing training provision to make them into apprenticeship programmes. Some 27% also planned to cut back on non-apprenticeship training, while 23% expected to reduce their graduate intake.

On the other hand, nearly three out of five respondents said they expected to create new apprenticeship programmes and almost half anticipated increasing the number of apprenticeship places they offer.

Josh Hardie, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “The survey results give an early indication of employer behaviour, reinforcing business’ long-standing frustration that the levy’s narrow design pushes their focus onto cost recovery rather than good training that will drive staff progression and wider economic benefits.”

He added that the levy system must be made more flexible in future to enable organisations to fund a wider range of training that better reflect the skills needs of themselves and their employees.

But the study also revealed that, during the first year of the levy’s operation, the biggest challenge that a third of employers had faced was a lack of clear guidance. Some 29% also complained about the inflexibility of funding rules, which hampered their ability to take on more apprentices.

Worryingly though, just under half also said they had experienced difficulty in recruiting apprentices, or expected to have problems doing so over the next three years.