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LGA: Reforms to ‘complex’ apprenticeship system needed to meet its full potential

The apprenticeship policy is not reaching its full potential, the LGA has warned today.

Since the launch of the government’s Apprenticeship Levy seven months ago, there have been 131,500 fewer apprenticeships started, according to the latest figures.

Between April and November 2017 there were 195,200 apprenticeships started, which is a 40% drop from the 326,700 apprenticeships which were started in the same period in 2016.

The LGA has argued that significant changes to the Apprenticeship Levy are needed in order for it to meet its potential, highlighting the complexity of the system and the fact that a number of key apprenticeships such as teaching and social care are not yet available as prominent issues in need of addressing.

Recently the government indicated that it will work with employers on how the Levy can be spent more effectively in order to achieve productivity across the country, and the LGA believes that a locally coordinated approach to this would make a “massive difference.”

Council leaders are calling for local areas to be given powers to pool levy contributions and have greater flexibility in how they are used, and for any levy underspend to be returned to the local areas where it is raised instead of back to the Treasury.

They also argue that the apprenticeships system should be fully devolved, including all non-Levy apprenticeship funding.

Additionally, they want to see an extension to the two-year limit to spend the levy against key standards for local authority workforces including teaching and social care.

Currently these cannot be accessed until September 2018, which the LGA has said gives councils too little time to spend their levy.

The LGA explained that these changes would free combined authorities and councils, employers and colleges to work with the government to boost the number of quality local apprenticeships, which would give young people and adults career advice to match local skills with local jobs, helping to address the skills gaps and shortages faced by local employers.

Cllr Sir Richard Leese, chair of the LGA’s city regions board, said: “These figures are an early warning that the Apprenticeship Levy must be improved if it is to deliver the right training at the right time both for employers and for those wishing to pursue an apprenticeship.”

“It is encouraging that the government will review the policy, and recognises the need to work in partnership to achieve the improvements needed,” he added.

“Combined authorities and councils fully support the ambitious target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 but could do far more if the government allowed them to pool and plan local provision.”

Leese concluded: “Devolving apprenticeship funding to the local areas in which they are used will allow combined authorities and councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to help people get the skills they need to progress in work, and supply businesses with the right skills at the right time to help local economies grow.”

Top image: Highwaystarz-Photography

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