Comment

23.04.18

Apprenticeship levy: retrain without pain?

Source: PSE April/May 2018

Tom Stannard, deputy spokesperson for economic prosperity and housing at Solace, considers the future potential of the apprenticeship levy a year into its creation.

The apprenticeship levy, which came into force in April 2017, is part of the government’s wider commitment to increase the quantity and quality of apprenticeships in an attempt to create three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.

The rationale for the levy is well rehearsed, with numerous reasons for committing to improving the stance on apprenticeship starts to include changing the perception of vocational pathways, encouraging greater inclusivity and take-up of the apprenticeship pathway, allowing apprenticeships to support the economic growth and goals of businesses by bridging any potential skill gaps of firms, and supporting productivity – which will be vital in the post-Brexit economy, with a focus on new recruits.

However, this focus is perhaps too narrow. The recently-published Industrial and Careers strategies recognise a wider issue of skills-based productivity, especially in areas where there has been significant changes in business demography.

In Oldham, manufacturing was the biggest sector, but has lost 50% of the jobs (c. 10,000) with growth in the financial & business sector and health and social care, which highlights the need for support for career changers as well as new entrants.

This economic restructuring has also changed how recruitment operates, with a significant increase in short-term employment creating an environment whereby the levy will have limited impact on individual skills levels, and specifically the creation of new apprenticeship roles.

In a post-recession, pre-Brexit economy, the question is how ready is the business community to take up the challenge set out in the Industrial Strategy?

How do we support those for whom their work future is disconnected from their work history?

Greater support needed

The recent Greater Manchester Business Survey shows that whilst 60% of companies invested in staff training, of the 39% that undertook no training last year in Oldham, 34% have no training budget – with around only one in 10 employing apprentices.

This suggests that the levy, on its own, will not increase the skills performance needed. A majority of local companies do not pay into the levy and too little has been done to promote the co-investment route.

For citizens, the Advanced Learner Loans route is useful, but requires a sense of self belief and confidence often missing from those we meet who have lost work in a major industry and see nothing but entry-level employment in different sectors as being suitable for them. Can the levy work to support career changers?

It is clear that the levy can play a major role to support business productivity and citizen reskilling, but it requires greater business engagement and support – and the question remains as to whether an apprentice levy is too narrow a pathway, with too many restrictions.

The National Retraining Scheme has the potential to close this policy gap, but it must fit across the ideas and ‘business environment pillars’ of the Industrial Strategy.

Benefit of devolution

On a positive note, whilst the levy has been a time-intensive programme for most councils – from unpicking the levy attributed to council-aligned but not managed agencies (e.g. schools) to balancing the use of the apprenticeship pathway for new recruits as well as existing staff, to ensuring procurement procedures are compliant – it has supported closer working across the devolved public sectors.

In Greater Manchester, the combined authority has developed a partnership hub which has provided a great forum for sharing information and good practice, as well as offering some collective salvation (especially in terms of procurement).

This hub enables the public sector to take stock on how the levy will support key groups, specifically BAME and older citizens.

Early analysis demonstrates an issue about the value of apprenticeships within BAME communities as “not worthy career paths for young people; young people on apprenticeships aren’t as ‘smart’ as those taking a traditional degree.”

In GM, the hub will now focus on how we can begin to communicate how apprenticeships are worthy alternative routes to further/higher education now that the types and levels of apprenticeships offered have developed, and now they are available up to a degree level or even worthy to start careers through.

Nearly a year into the levy and the sector is adopting the programme, making plans for the expenditure, creating new roles, and upskilling existing staff. This is what the public sector does.

However, we also have an eye on how these reforms can support our citizens and business communities.

Feedback from both communities shows that in some cases the jury has yet to be appointed, never mind is “out.”

It is clear that we need a wider response, especially for SMEs and the citizens that find themselves needing to retrain. Perhaps the Industrial Strategy, supported by the Careers Strategy, can support this ambition?

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION
W: www.solace.org.uk

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

District and borough authorities begin challenge against Nottinghamshire super-council

20/07/2018District and borough authorities begin challenge against Nottinghamshire super-council

Gedling council members have emphatically outlined their stance against a potential mega-merger in Nottinghamshire that could see borough and dis... more >
Northamptonshire new CEO approved by Full Council to lead area through ‘unprecedented time of change’

20/07/2018Northamptonshire new CEO approved by Full Council to lead area through ‘unprecedented time of change’

Northamptonshire County Council’s new chief executive has been endorsed at the authority’s Full Council meeting yesterday, with the a... more >
‘Naming and shaming index’ for bankrupt councils fails to offer genuine solution

20/07/2018‘Naming and shaming index’ for bankrupt councils fails to offer genuine solution

An index designed to measure councils’ financial resilience in order to avoid another Northamptonshire-style fiasco would actually risk ove... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

One step closer to voter IDs at elections

19/07/2018One step closer to voter IDs at elections

Chloe Smith MP, Minister for the Constitution, evaluates the outcomes of the voter ID pilots conducted at the last local elections. We are one step closer to strengthening the integrity of our electoral system through requiring electors to confirm their identity before they vote, building on the government’s commitment to safeguard ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >
GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

03/04/2018GDPR: The public sector scarecrow

SPONSORED INTERVIEW PSE’s Josh Mines chats to Martin de Martini, CIO of Y Soft, about what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)... more >
Keeping London safe

05/03/2018Keeping London safe

Theo Blackwell, London’s first-ever chief digital officer (CDO), speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the role he plays in ensuring the... more >
BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

public sector focus

LGO upholds 60% of investigations against councils

12/07/2018LGO upholds 60% of investigations against councils

Article by Callum Wood of Public Sector Magaz... more >
Foehn achieves UK Government G-Cloud 10 Certification

05/07/2018Foehn achieves UK Government G-Cloud 10 Certification

Foehn's Rafael Cortes tells PSE abo... more >