Avatar
Hello
Guest
Log In or Sign Up
ViewPoint: Utilities Demand More From Apprenticeship Levy
January 6, 2020
0

CONTRIBUTOR: Nick Ellins, Chief Executive – Energy & Utility Skills

Image result for utilities sector

The utility sector led the way in implementing the government Apprenticeship reforms, was the first to secure a Trailblazer Standard and graduate an apprentice through the new system. They offer to act as a proven and credible ‘critical friend’ to an incoming government.

Now, Energy & Utility Skills, a skills and assurance organisation for the UK utilities sector, published a comprehensive review into the delivery and effectiveness of Apprenticeship reforms. The work forms one part of its workforce renewal and skills strategy to ensure that the gas, power, water and waste management industries has the human capital required to deliver environmental infrastructure and essential services to nearly 67 million UK consumers.

The employer-led review was independently written by Professor David Way CBE, a leading figure in UK skills and Apprenticeships. The report found the energy and utilities sector – which is of high strategic importance to government plans to boost UK productivity and will invest more than £100bn in the economy – has made the policy reforms deliver high quality workers but further adjustments are needed to make the apprentice system fit for purpose.

The ‘Test and Adjust’ report calls for six key actions:  

  1. Filling the funding gap

The predicted funding shortfall for Apprenticeships must be transparent. Any funding gap should be filled by a combination of increased public funding and lowering the payroll threshold to below £3m for employers who contribute to the Apprenticeship Levy. Public funding offers a proven healthy return for the UK economy

Linking Apprenticeships to the Industrial Strategy 

Success should be about more than the number of Apprenticeship starts, it should be linked to outputs and productivity. The sector calls for a change in approach to ensure critical skills delivery is incentivised, quality is increased and not undermined by funding cuts.

Sector training pot 

Unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds are returned to treasury. The sector askes that Levy funds are retained within the sector to create a flexible ‘sector training pot’ to be used for tackling skill challenges and enhancing productivity. Employers in the energy and utilities sector are currently losing up to £2.5million a month of unspent Levy

Employer leadership 

The employer-led approach must be extended to all parts of the Apprenticeship system. Employers know best when it comes to the skills and knowledge required in their businesses. This is tested at the end of the Apprenticeship programme by an Independent End Point Assessment organisation. Why then go back and check if 20% of their time was spent on ‘off the job’ training? Employers need to have more control over how their apprentices are trained.

UK wide approach 

Over half of the sector’s employers operate across the UK’s four nations, delivering services to around 67 million UK-wide customers. Every company in England must pay the Apprenticeship Levy based on their UK PAYE bill. However, it is only directly available to fund apprentices in England. In the other 3 nations it is passed back to their governments. This often leads to employers having to pay twice for Apprenticeship training. It is not uncommon for companies operating across the 4 nations to have cohorts of apprentices on two different Apprenticeship programmes.  The sector calls for a coherent UK-wide framework that works for employers and apprentices

From T-Levels to Apprenticeships 

The industry is positive about the introduction of T-Levels but calls for more transparency and detail on the pathways from T-Levels to Apprenticeships and employment. The sector is keen to see T-Levels and Apprenticeships working as one continuous process.

Nick Ellins, Chief Executive of Energy & Utility Skills, said: “The energy and utilities sector employs over half a million people, generates 5% of GDP and contributes £51m annually to the Apprenticeship Levy pot. They set the standard in delivering successfully against the policy reforms and from the start sought to positively help the government to ‘test and adjust’ its approach.

This report from Professor Way, sets out clearly for the incoming government, where to adjust the reforms to bring immediate benefits and policy success. Too much time is being spent focusing on the Apprenticeship Levy as an end in itself, what matters is the quality of the talent that emerges into the economy and society, and how effectively the system works for the employers who foot the bill.”

Report author, Professor David Way, CBE, said: “Employer-led reforms to the Apprenticeship programme are beginning to bear fruit, especially by improving quality. This will be vital for future productivity growth and for the expansion of the Apprenticeship programme.

The Apprenticeship Levy has not yet had the transformational impact on employer investment in skills training that Ministers were looking to achieve. However, employers are now familiar with the systems and are steadily increasing the proportion of their Levy payments that they are able to use.

By extending the employer-led approach to all parts of Apprenticeships and ensuring employers see the Levy arrangements as fair and transparent, there is every prospect that we will see the growth in high quality Apprenticeships that will drive the productivity increases needed for the UK to compete in the global economy.”

Nick Ellins concluded: “The Apprenticeship reforms have brought undeniable benefits to the employers in our sector, and they wish to accelerate the gains being made by identifying and embedding reforms that will work for the incoming government and for business. Their track record of turning theory into practice makes them a tried and tested partner for government. It is time to step back, draw breath, talk candidly, target the resources and efforts to maximum effect and use this insightful research to help Apprenticeship policy progress to support the needs of the whole UK economy”

Warning Over ‘Fake’ Apprenticeship Courses
January 3, 2020
0

Half of apprenticeship courses in England have been accused of being “fake” by an education think tank reports Sean Coughlan, BBC News family and education correspondent.

The EDSK report says the apprenticeship levy – paid by big employers – is being used on low-skilled jobs or relabelling existing posts, rather than training.

Tom Richmond, the think tank’s director, said the apprenticeship scheme was “descending into farce”.

But a Department for Education spokeswoman defended apprenticeships as becoming “better quality”.

The apprenticeship levy is paid by large employers, who contribute 0.5% of their salary bill into the training fund.

But since 2017, the report claims £1.2bn from the levy has been spent on jobs “offering minimal training and low wages” or on “rebadging” jobs already offered by employers as apprenticeships.

In its first full year of operation, the levy raised £2.7bn and this is expected to rise to £3.4bn by 2023-24.

Apprenticeship spending is too often used on “existing adult workers instead of supporting young people into the workplace”, the report warns.

The education think tank says there is an insufficiently clear definition of what an apprenticeship should offer, so much so that the “brand itself has arguably become a meaningless concept”.

It describes 50% of apprenticeship courses since 2017 as “fake”, saying they do not “relate to helping young people get started in a skilled job or occupation”.

The think tank’s analysis says that £235m of the levy has been used to support “low-skill” roles, such as bar staff, shop checkout workers and those in “basic office administration”.

A further £551m has been used by firms for management training, with the report claiming this was often used for experienced staff rather than new recruits and could include the “rebadging” of existing schemes.

The most common apprenticeship is becoming a supervisor or team leader, representing about a tenth of all apprenticeships.

The report also criticises £448m spent on apprenticeships aimed at degree and postgraduate level.

This includes some academics with PhDs being labelled as apprentices in university training schemes in research and teaching.

It also includes support for degree apprenticeships, which are offered as a vocational alternative to academic degrees.

The report’s claims were strongly rejected by Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.

He said there was a need for a wide range of apprenticeships, including those at a lower level – and he accused the report of using “caricatures” which had “no resemblance to the reality of what is actually being learnt”.

A National Audit Office report into apprenticeships last year warned: “There are risks that the programme is subsidising training that would have happened without government funding.”

The former education secretary Damian Hinds last year told the education select committee that apprenticeships were improving in quality.

But he had told MPs that “in the not too distant past” there had been people who did not even realise they were on an apprenticeship scheme.

The new think tank report says apprenticeships need to be more carefully defined and targeted if they are to “improve technical education for young people”.

“If the government wants apprenticeships to be taken seriously by young people, parents and teachers, they must protect this historic brand by scrapping all the ‘fake apprenticeships’ and benchmarking our training programmes against the best in the world,” said Mr Richmond.

“Not only will this save hundreds of millions each year, it will provide more opportunities for young people to train as genuine apprentices, especially those living in the most deprived areas.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman defended the value of apprenticeships and said they had to meet “high-quality requirements”.

She said they lasted “for a minimum of 12 months with at least 20% off-the-job training” and could not be called an apprenticeship unless it complied with such regulations.

Could Sharing Apprentices be the Answer for Businesses?
December 20, 2019
0

The apprenticeship levy isn’t working hard enough – it’s up to employers to look for creative solutions, writes Louise Doyle.

Apprentices: Why we should encourage businesses to share them

Employment has changed considerably in the past 10 years. Greater flexibility, more home working, a rise in self-employment, a decline in traditional retail sectors and the growth of digital have transformed the way we fulfil our working lives. It makes sense that we look at the current apprenticeship models, examine that pattern of change, consider whether our current system is future-proof and where it isn’t, look for creative solutions.

By way of an example, I’d like to share with you a little about the environment in which our own business operates.

As a software provider, we are part of an increasing number of businesses that co-locate in business hubs alongside other like-minded organisations. As business owners, one of our main challenges as we grow is access to skilled people. But taking on an apprentice in a small business can be risky. Perhaps you’ll go out of business – what if you can’t pay them? Have you got enough work to keep them busy? Have you got the time to support them effectively? These are the questions being asked by business owners with integrity: those who, when they take on new staff, see a long-term future for them in their company.

The apprenticeship sector needs to respond to these barriers comprehensively: we need young, dynamic businesses to develop a mindset of seeking apprentices to employ in the same way they seek graduates. We need to meet and work with them during their early stage growth period; we shouldn’t wait until traditional recruitment practices of looking to the nearest undergraduate programme become entrenched. The levy-payer of tomorrow is the small business grappling with the complexity of scaling-up their business today.

Flexible apprenticeships

Perhaps the answer in this circumstance is to revisit how we support employers to share apprentices, opening up access to much-needed capacity for the business while providing a rich programme of (diverse) learning for the apprentice. Presenting opportunities to not one but multiple businesses to have an apprentice is a very exciting and tangible possibility. We already have the basis of such models – apprenticeship training associations – which could be applied more fully to new and evolving sectors if we grasp the chance to reimagine how they can fit.

When coupled with the levy-payers who are often connected to such hubs through formal and informal arrangements, we can potentially unlock some of the cash sitting in some levy-payers’ accounts.

Why? Because the levy is not working hard enough to ensure that young people can fully access the employment market. This must be addressed if any of us are to lay claim to it providing a meaningful return on investment.

Commitment to apprentices

Apprenticeships must be front-of-mind for employers – whatever the size of the business – when they are looking to fill a vacancy. We need to lead the line manager making recruitment decisions more firmly towards apprenticeships as a viable option. In part, this should be through refocusing the levy to require a percentage of the spend to be used on entry recruitment but also through education of employers as to how the levy can be used successfully to bring a return on investment.

I’m often asked, as a business owner, what my most valuable customer type is. I think this is an interesting question from an apprenticeship provider’s perspective. Let me try to answer it. A valuable customer is an employer who puts their money where their mouth is. A valuable employer, therefore, is one who doesn’t just sign a commitment statement but means it: from the beginning to the end of the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are with the employer for around 80 per cent of the time. A valuable employer is someone who doesn’t forget it, working in partnership with their chosen training provider throughout.

There is evidence that it is harder to deliver quality apprenticeships because of the number of providers of apprenticeship provision that receive a “good” Ofsted judgement for “overall provision”, but fall short for their “apprenticeship provision”. It isn’t too much of a stretch, therefore, to recognise the role a challenging employer may play in the latter.

Ultimately, we should be striving to design and operate an apprenticeship system that is of equal value to both employers and apprentices. The litmus test for me with apprentices, rather than focusing on my business, always relates to my own children: would I want them to do an apprenticeship? Ten years ago I’m afraid the answer would have been no.

Now, the answer is a very definite yes, but I have the benefit of knowing exactly how to find good apprentices and the best apprenticeships. My vision, which I suspect is the same as most of you reading this, is that all other business leaders, parents and prospective apprentices can say the same.

Louise Doyle is a director at quality assurance and improvement specialist Mesma

ViewPoint: Apprenticeship Levy Needs ‘shake up’ to Serve Businesses and Communities
December 17, 2019
0

TWO OF THE UK’S LEADING FIGURES IN TECHNICAL EDUCATION AND SKILLS ARE CALLING FOR A RADICAL SHAKE-UP OF THE APPRENTICESHIP LEVY SYSTEM SO IT BETTER SERVES BOTH BUSINESSES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES. CONTRIBUTOR NEIL BATES, CHAIR OF THE EDGE FOUNDATION AND JOHN BAUMBACK, MANAGING DIRECTOR – SEETEC.

Apprenticeships

There needs to be greater flexibility to allow businesses to use unspent levy funds to support people in local communities. Neil Bates, who has spent three decades as a leader in technical education, said: “The current levy system is simply not working. Less than a quarter of the available funds are being used and nearly £300m a month is being lost back to the Treasury. 

“We are seeing lots of rebadging of training for existing older workers rather than planned investment in creating a talent pipeline of young people from the local community who could benefit from an apprenticeship.”

Baumback, who started his career as an apprentice with Seetec and is now Group MD, added: “We know that most large businesses understand their corporate responsibilities, and many have ambitious CSR programmes to support communities, schools and good causes. 

“My idea is simple, rather than unspent levy being given back to HM Treasury, businesses should be able to use these funds to support educational programmes in their local communities. There are many examples of businesses like Investec, JLR, Greggs, Ford, UBS and BP who invest in education and in young people. It makes good business sense to do so because these young people are the workforce of the future.” 

The call for more flexibility is supported by CBI Deputy Director, Josh Hardie, who last year highlighted the case of a large insurer which runs an apprenticeship programme, internships, traineeships and work placements, but none are Levy-compliant due to the inflexibility of the scheme.

Unintended consequences
In the first six months of the levy in 2017, apprenticeship starts fell off a cliff, plummeting by 40% on the previous year. In the Levy’s first full year, employers used just 15% of the £3.9 billion pot. While this rose to 22% by January 2019, this still amounted to some £300m a month of unspent levy being taken back by HM Treasury.

 A survey of employers for People Management highlighted that, of those that planned to use the levy, 35% planned to use it on MBA or management training. Bates says  while there is nothing wrong with genuine apprenticeships for older workers, there is little evidence of funding being used to encourage more school leavers to secure a high-quality apprenticeship.

He believes the absence of an early talent pipeline will impact on UK businesses in a post-Brexit world where technical skills will be at a premium. An Edge Foundation report highlights that two thirds of UK apprentice starts are conversions of existing workers over the age of 25. In Germany and Austria 35% of all post-secondary school students are on an apprenticeship, in the UK it is just 4%. Bates says the low numbers of 16-18 year olds starting on high quality advanced apprenticeships, particularly in STEM subjects, is a fundamental weakness in the UK skills system. 

The levy is not enough
Baumback stresses that the best UK employers understand the need for a skills strategy to ensure a pipeline of talent to compete in a global market. Most also have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy linking the business to the local community and the education system to ensure that growth is inclusive.

Baumback and Bates argue that the best way to achieve long-term employer buy-in is to link these strategies. Allowing levy funds to be used for educational CSR initiatives would make a compelling business and social case.  

Building lasting partnerships
A strong example is Ford’s Next Generation Learning (NGL) programme, recently introduced into the UK in partnership with the Edge Foundation, North East LEP and local schools.

The aims are to strengthen the talent pipeline, prepare young people for college, careers, lifelong learning and leadership, achieve educational equity and increase community prosperity.

According to Bates and Baumback, this is one of many examples of large employers engaging with their local communities and building links between schools and employers. 

Bates cites Basildon, which grew up around the automotive industry in the 1960s, as an example of a community which could benefit from this approach. While technological change has transformed the town into an advanced engineering powerhouse, with highly-skilled, well-paid jobs, he argues the local education system has not kept pace.

“The consequence is that many residents do not have the education and skills needed to access these well-paid jobs. Young people, especially, are not sharing in this success. We need to make growth inclusive and allowing big business to use their levy to invest in the community benefits everyone”. 

Bates and Baumback say this would make the levy a force for good, fostering partnerships between large employers, local authorities, schools and communities. It would build on regional skills devolution, shifting control of policy and resources away from central government and into the hands of those that will benefit from it. 

This would be a logical next step in the reform of apprenticeships and technical education, they conclude. They are urging business groups to campaign for more flexibility, while developing a strategy to use the levy more productively.

Apprenticeship Levy an ‘Empty Promise’, Says CIPD
July 24, 2019
0

The apprenticeship levy is failing to deliver on government promises to boost skills and spending on workplace training, according to research from the CIPD.

The key objectives of the levy were to increase apprenticeship numbers and investment in workplace training, which was in a 20-year decline when the levy was introduced in April 2017.

But the CIPD’s new report, Addressing employer under-investment in training: The case for a broader training levy, described this as an ’empty promise’.

It found that fewer than a third (31%) of the 2,000 levy-paying employers surveyed said the scheme will incentivise them to increase the amount of training they offer, down from 45% in 2017.

The report also showed that nearly six in 10 (58%) levy-paying employers either believe the levy will have no impact on the amount they spend on training (49%), or will actually lead to a reduction in training spend (9%).

Employers have invested in fewer apprenticeships since the levy’s introduction, with starts falling from 509,400 in 2015/16 to 375,800 in 2017/18, the research highlighted.

It also revealed that the way the levy is designed currently is incentivising employers to use their funds in counterproductive ways. A fifth (22%) of employers said they use their levy money on training that would have happened regardless, and 15% said they use the scheme to accredit skills that staff already have. A further 14% reported that the apprenticeship levy directs funds away from other forms of training that are more appropriate for their organisation.

The CIPD is calling on the government to replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader training levy, which would enable organisations to fund both apprenticeships but also other forms of accredited training better suited to their needs.

A portion of the training levy pot could also be used to create a regional skills fund to address skills challenges at a local level, such as by helping smaller non-levy-paying firms invest in skills, the report added.

The CIPD said it also wants the levy to cover all employers with a headcount of 50 or more. This would double the amount raised by the scheme to £5 billion, which would help make up the shortfall from the decline in investment in training over the past two decades, the body said.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said there is a case for more flexibility around apprenticeships. “Our research clearly shows the apprenticeship levy has failed to deliver what the government said it would: more investment in workplace training. For this to become a reality we need to have a broader training levy that is much less prescriptive and gives employers more flexibility. This should also help to prevent employers from gaming the system, as is currently the case,” she said.

Crowley outlined the case for obliging a larger pool of employers to invest in the levy:

“With only 2% of employers required to pay the apprenticeship levy, the money raised from it was never going to be enough to close the gap that’s been left by the long-term decline in training investment. But if we had more employers contributing we could make up the shortfall and also help to boost regional investment in skills.”

10 Key Facts the DfE Want Us To Know About The Apprenticeship #Levy
April 8, 2019
0

The following was published by the Department for Education on 5th April 2019

The apprenticeship levy is celebrating its two year anniversary. Here’s what you should know.

Two years ago, we introduced the apprenticeship levy to create long term sustainable funding for apprenticeships and to give employers more control to provide their staff with a range of training opportunities.

The levy means there is more money available than ever before for apprenticeship training and allows employers to choose which apprenticeships they offer, how many and when. By 2019-20 the funding available for investment in apprenticeships in England will have risen to over £2.5 billion, double what was spent in 2010-11 in cash terms. Read more

ViewPoint: The Apprenticeship Levy – If Rationing is to be Introduced, Let’s Get it Right
April 5, 2019
0

There has been recent scrutiny about the forecasted overspend of the levy. UVAC has been predicting this for some time and now the Institute (IfATE) and the National Audit Office have confirmed this is an issue writes Mandy Crawford-Lee, Director of Policy and Operations, University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC).

We are now in a situation where ‘proposals’ for a way forward are being put forward, so here is a view from the perspective of an organisation that wants the levy to be used to raise productivity, enhance social mobility and support the delivery of high-quality public services.

Bizarre Proposals: We’ve had some fairly curious proposals on how to manage such an overspend.

AELP has called for an end to using the levy to fund level 6 and 7 and degree apprenticeships.

So as UVAC has said on many occasions, it is the case that AELP wants to stop police forces using their levy payments to fund the police constable degree apprenticeship to train new police officers and prevent the NHS from training new nurses through a degree apprenticeship. Read more

Ofsted’s New Provider Monitoring Visits
January 18, 2019
0

Chris Jones, HMI, Specialist Adviser for Apprenticeships, on Ofsted’s new provider monitoring visits (8th January 2019)

Since April 2017, any provider wishing to train apprentices must be included on the register of apprenticeship training providers. We inspect all providers that receive apprenticeship funding from the Education & Skills Funding Agency or through the apprenticeship levy and that deliver apprenticeships at levels 2 to 5. A number of these providers are now eligible for inspection for the first time.

We usually inspect a new provider within 3 years of it beginning to deliver education and training programmes. But, because of the large volume of these new apprenticeship training providers and the potential risk to quality, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, announced in November 2017 that inspectors would carry out early monitoring visits to a sample of new apprenticeship providers. The Department for Education (DfE) has since provided additional funding to make sure that we have the resources to carry out monitoring visits to all these providers.

We will now be carrying out a monitoring visit to all newly funded apprenticeship training providers that have been delivering level 2 to 5 apprenticeships since April 2017. This visit will normally be within 24 months of their starting to deliver funded training. They will then have a full inspection normally within 24 months from when we publish their monitoring visit report.

By the end of November 2018, we had published more than 90 reports from monitoring visits to new providers.

Themes that inspectors look at

Monitoring visits for new providers are different to full and short inspections. They normally take place over 2 days. Inspectors do not cover all aspects of the inspection framework. Inspectors make progress judgements on 3 themes: Read more

ViewPoint: The Apprenticeship Levy, One Year Later by Jill Whittaker
July 26, 2018
0

The government initiative to fund three million apprentice places by 2020 has had a mixed response, but, as Jill Whittaker, MD at HIT Training says, the funds are there for the taking and businesses are already seeing results.

For some hospitality businesses, the perceived admin involved with the government’s apprenticeship levy may have felt a little overwhelming. It’s perhaps hardly surprising that, according to a report by the Open University, £1.3b of the cash paid into the fund is yet to be claimed.Viewpoint: the apprenticeship levy, one year later

But this figure is less dramatic than it first appears; with businesses having 24 months to use levy payments, they may just be taking time to understand the scheme first. This is our experience at HIT Training. In the hospitality sector, May 2017 saw apprenticeship starts at just 25% of the same month in 2016. But by the end of 2017, that figure had increased to 80% year on year. Far from writing a scheme off in its infancy, we need time to allow new complicated legislation to bed down.

As a reminder, the levy itself requires all companies with a pay bill of more than £3m to contribute 0.5% of their payroll costs to the scheme, which they then claim back for training. This amount is then topped up by 10% from the government. Businesses with pay bills below £3m don’t pay into the fund but they still have access to government subsidies of 90% of the cost of the apprenticeship, with the employers co-paying the additional 10%.

A recent survey from People 1st showed nearly two-thirds of employers in the hospitality, travel, tourism and aviation sectors are either confident or very confident they will see a return on investment from their levy contribution. Better staff retention rates, improved skills and personal development have all been highlighted as benefits by nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents.
Read more

Greater Flexibility for Apprenticeship Levy as Transfers Extended
June 28, 2018
0

Employers given green light to transfer up to 10% of levy funds to multiple businesses the Department for Employment reports.

Large employers will soon be able to transfer up to 10% of their apprenticeship levy funds to multiple businesses, helping to boost the number of high-quality apprenticeships across the country.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton announced the move on 26th June at an event attended by over 160 top businesses to celebrate apprenticeships and the significant contribution they are making to their businesses and the wider economy.

The apprenticeship levy is giving employers a real opportunity to invest in high-quality training, helping to grow their business and get the skilled workforce they need to thrive and succeed. Only around 2% of employers pay the levy but that investment has funded more than 40% of the apprenticeships started in the last year.

Currently, levy-paying employers can transfer up to 10% of their apprenticeship service funds to one other employer. After listening to businesses, the Minister’s announcement today goes further and provides even greater flexibility for businesses so that from July, employers will be able to make transfers of up to 10% to as many other employers as they choose.

This move will lead to more quality apprenticeships being created and will help employers to work together in partnership, supporting them to take on apprentices who may not have done so otherwise.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: Read more