Apprenticeship Levy: Burden or opportunity?

 

This April sees the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, the Government’s initiative to ensure big organisations get serious about apprenticeship programmes.

The levy is a central plank in the Government’s ambition to get three million new apprentices started by 2020 and sees all employers operating in the UK with a pay bill of more than £3m each year facing an additional 0.5% tax, which can be recouped through subsidies for training apprentices.

”Local
Ian Deninson, HR director at Amey

It is important to note; government guidance states the levy will not affect the way you fund training for apprentices who started an apprenticeship programme before 1 May 2017. So you’ll need to carry on funding training for these apprentices under the same terms and conditions that were in place at the time the apprenticeship started.

The guidance also states that once you have declared the levy to HMRC, you will be able to access funding for apprenticeships through a new apprenticeship service account.

Of course any new piece of legislation is not without its critics. The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently branded it ‘poor value for money’, highlighting the risk that the apprentice ‘brand’ could be devalued and become ‘just another term for training’. Reactions from businesses are also mixed, with some viewing the new initiative as disruptive to their existing training programmes – why must they hire apprentices according to a government-set framework when their current training schemes appear to be working perfectly fine?

While some of these points may well be valid for certain businesses, we have a long history of hiring apprentices at Amey. We are on course to hire our 500th apprentice this year, with 230 currently on our programme and the rest in roles across Amey, having completed their apprenticeships.

It’s well known that one of the central benefits of being an apprentice is that you get to ‘earn while you learn’, combining formal study with real work that pays. Because we are such a big business that operates in many sectors we can offer a huge range of apprenticeships from hands-on roles such as arboriculture, highways maintenance or smart metering to more office-based work such as finance, IT and customer service. In total, we are able to offer over 70 different types of apprenticeships.

We’re constantly looking to recruit from all sectors of society and become even more diverse as we’re committed to making our workforce reflect the communities in which we work.

With the arrival of the levy, we will now be competing with more businesses for applicants so a strong apprenticeship offer is essential. That’s why we offer all eligible apprentices the opportunity to apply for a place on the DofE Gold Business Award Programme. The programme gives people the opportunity to develop life-skills like problem-solving and team working, which of course are vital in the workplace. Very few businesses offer this to their apprentices.

For our part, we want hard-working and enthusiastic people who are looking to develop and grow their careers within Amey, and who want to really make a difference to local communities. There’s a strong shared belief at Amey that we create better places to live, work and travel. We play a key role in enhancing the everyday experience of citizens, commuters and workers by maintaining the railways, roads, buildings and services on which they depend.

Our apprentices are a valued pipeline of talent within our organisation and play a crucial role in the delivery of our services. So while some companies may bristle at this new levy, it is also an opportunity for them to embrace the value that apprentices can bring – apprenticeships are certainly key to the current and future success of all our businesses.

 

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