Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2019, HR director at findcourses.co.uk, Liza Andersin, has given her insight into everything you need to know about apprenticeships with a detailed explanation on how the Levy works.

The changing faces of apprenticeships

The apprenticeship system has come a long way. In order to meet the governments ambitious plan to train 3 million new apprentices in England by 2020, the entire funding system has been redesigned, training standards are being rewritten which has all resulted in the value of apprenticeships being questioned and rethought.

With more focus and funding being placed on apprenticeships, young people and their parents alike have changed their perceptions on the subject. There is still a stigma attached to apprenticeship demographics and challenging cultural notions about who should undertake an apprenticeship.

A major barrier which withstands is the preconception that apprentices can only be entry-level school leavers. It is important to know that this is untrue, apprenticeships are open to people of any age.

There are a wealth of apprenticeships at bachelor’s and even master’s level aimed at training every level of the workforce which can help in every aspect of your talent pool. The government knows some employers do prefer to take on those apprentices with more experience in the workplace, this why the additional funding for companies who take on 16-18-year-old’s helps maintain the balance.

Apprenticeships still have connotations attached to the name, some individuals steer away from applying for an apprenticeship because they feel too old or don’t want to be perceived as inexperienced.

Apprenticeships are widely beneficial from each way you can look at them. Firstly they can be used to train existing staff by increasing their engagement and motivation in the workplace and contribute to staff retention. And on the other hand they can bring in new employees and develop them internally, increasing loyalty and bring in an expanded knowledge selection.

With the levy implemented for next year, ambitions of an apprenticeship interest increase have not stepped up. There are fewer apprenticeship starts with the 3 million figure target looking less likely, they were down 28% between August 2017 and March 2018 compared to the same period in 2016/17, leaving teachers and parents’ mindsets still viewing vocational training as second best to higher education.

Findings from the UK L&D Report 2019 revealed that out of their surveys, only 53% viewed apprenticeships as an important part of their L&D strategy for 2019, despite the UK’s potential talent pipeline shortage and the ageing workforce.

Earning Potential

72% of market leaders are using L&D as a key part of their recruitment strategy giving great scope for new starters of any age to get a job. A study conducted by the Social Mobility Commission found that academic qualifications isn’t necessarily the most important factor when it comes to your earning potential. Choosing a vocational or academic course that’s near your current or future field is the way to ensure higher earnings.

The survey revealed that men benefited through vocational studies such as apprenticeships and they often reap greater rewards in the long term as theory-based courses allowed them to enter the higher levels of the workforce.

Degrees are not the only way to get to the top of the career ladder, senior management comes from both ends in terms of qualification. The highest proportion of senior managers have a Level 3 academic qualification but there is a similar percentage of managers with a level 2 vocational qualification.

How the Levy works

The levy applies to employers in England who have an annual pay bill above £3m, the levy is 0.5 per cent of the annual pay bill whether they chose to employ apprentices or not, all employers will receive a £15k annual allowance to be offset against the bill. This effectively means that employers with an annual pay bill of £3m or less pay no levy. The levy will be collected by HM Revenue and Customs monthly through Pay as You Earn (PAYE). It can be accessed by employers through an online digital service account. The thinking behind this tax was straight forward, help boost the UK’s unshakably low productivity output by investing in human capital and thus committing to creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020.

We interviewed Elizabeth Curran, Owner of Funding Solutions 4 Business ahead of our 2019 Learning and Development Report, she believes that adult apprenticeships still face a branding issue:

“The apprenticeship levy and policy supports internal workforce development for employers, but employers still don’t understand with the word apprenticeship, the government definitely need to do more to help people understand its about learning new skills, regardless of your age.”

Talent is vital for a sector undergoing such fundamental change, for many apprenticeship schemes they offer an alternative option which is better suited to some people who don’t think of university as an option for several factors.

So this creates the question, why are the number of apprenticeships starters still so low? It is suggested this is due to retailers being forced to invest in the schemes making them more valued by potential apprentices. The employers are the ones now who have a larger task of being picky on who they take on as opposed to the lack of interest of potential starters.

The priority now is to fix the apprenticeship levy. In an ideal situation it is best to unveil a highly skilled workforce, greater social mobility and higher British productivity. It does provide a chance for those who wouldn’t want to harbor student debt, a chance to gain employable skills whilst earning.

The scheme provides them with an equal chance of stepping up the career ladder but unfortunately until the Levy was introduced there has been no real focus of accelerating the application of apprenticeships.  Therefore the chance to revise its state is an opportunity that shouldn’t be dismissed.

Liza Andersin, HR director, findcourses.co.uk

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