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Our apprenticeships system needs major surgery, insists business leader

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By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director & vice chair GFirstLEP

Why oh why don’t the government realise that our apprenticeships system needs major surgery to help companies take on young people more easily?

At the heart of firms’ concerns over apprenticeships is a failing funding system.

It is simply too complicated.

And companies just often give up trying to find their way through the complexity of the gateway to simply employ a young apprentice.

Back in 2017, a government levy was introduced which means that companies with a turnover of more than £3 million must pay 0.5 per cent of their payroll costs into a fund for training.

This has really annoyed many companies I talk to who claim it is too complex and inflexible.

So, not surprisingly, apprenticeships starts and completions have fallen since the levy was introduced.

And over the past five years, a staggering £4.3 billion raised by this employers’ levy was not spent on apprenticeships but kept by or returned to the Treasury.

How crazy is that! It’s just adding to our skills crisis.

And as a result, the UK Metals Council-representing businesses employing about a million people-has now written to Education Minister Gillian Keegan urging government to review the system.

Our Further Education colleges here in Gloucestershire are facing a constant battle with government to simplify the levy.

One of the best apprenticeship experts I know is Pat Mcleod, assistant principal for projects at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College.

He told me: “Anything the skills minister can do to simplify the system to support greater take-up of  apprenticeships is very welcome. They are key to UK productivity”.

That’s why I don’t understand about the lack of government action to undertake a root and branch revue of apprenticeships when we are told that young people with skills are vital for economic growth.

Indeed, SGS College is collaborating with Business West to deliver a Joint

Employer  Conference on Friday(June 30) at their Wise Campus at Stoke Gifford, Bristol(To register go to:www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/employer-conference-tickets-626075146617)

Apprenticeships will be to the fore at this meeting and update information from Business West on our  ongoing work on the region’s Local Skills Improvement Plans or LSIPs.

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