Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, has said that while the Apprenticeship Levy has the right intentions, great clarity is required from the government.
While the intentions for the Apprenticeship Levy are right, the implementation has left something to be desired, argues Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
In an article for Tes, Dr Marshall praised the government's intentions to create a ring-fenced pot of money for training and to encourage more companies to consider apprenticeship training.
However, he said that ministers tend to forget that it’s the quality, not the quantity, of the training that businesses really value. He argued that the government’s priority should be to create more opportunities for people to learn and develop in the workplace, while helping businesses fill skills gaps, rather than hitting numerical targets.
Dr Marshall also said that so far there has been a lack of clear and early guidance for companies, leaving organisations across the country unsure of how the levy will work and what it will mean for them.
Even as the April deadline for the Apprenticeship Levy came and passed, many companies paying the levy – including the BCC – were in the dark about the practicalities of the system, he said.
Because of this, there was an increased perception that the levy was simply a payroll tax, rather than something that was valuable and to be engaged with.
“There is also uncertainty around the delivery of apprenticeships for those who do not pay the levy,” he wrote. “Many businesses are below the £3 million levy threshold but want to take on apprentices – but the investment they must make to do so is changing, and the system for delivery and support is not yet clear.
“For the new generation of apprenticeships to work for smaller firms, businesses need to understand how to take advantage of the opportunities that the new system is intended to create.”
In order to help business understand the levy, Dr Marshall suggested that the government provides more flexibility for companies to use the levy funding for other types of accredited, high-quality training.
Although no business should be given levy funds to just replace their existing training spending, he said apprenticeships are not the only form of high-quality training available.
“Collaboration between government, business and education is the only way for the UK to create the pipeline of talent it needs to remain a competitive and entrepreneurial economy,” Dr Marshall concluded.