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Training & Apprenticeships: It’s time to upskill the workforce before Brexit bites

PUBLISHED: 17:08 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:08 20 April 2017

Apprenticeships (c) Shutterstock

Apprenticeships (c) Shutterstock

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The Apprenticeship Levy is now in force for all large employers across the UK. Gloucestershire College is keen to help businesses - levy and non-levy paying - understand the changes and shore up the future workforce. James Bennett discusses the options

Gloucestershire College has been a driving force for apprenticeships in the county for almost a decade.

But now, more than ever, apprenticeships are a vital part of the future of the UK economy - and no more so than in three years’ time, when post-Brexit Britain needs to upskill workers across all sectors.

The figures speak for themselves: currently the budget for apprenticeships is £1.5 billion but the levy will provide an additional £1 billion by 2020.

Who is paying for it?

Levy payers

• Businesses with an annual wage bill of more than £3 million will, from now on, pay a 0.5 per cent apprenticeship levy.

• This money, plus a 10 per cent top-up from the Government, will be added to their Online Apprenticeship Service (OAS) account and be available as digital vouchers from late May.

• They will pay for apprenticeship training and assessments via the OAS from May – this can be spent on apprenticeship training for new apprentices and to upskill existing staff.

• Once the digital vouchers have been spent, businesses can still take on extra apprentices and the government will fund 90 per cent of the cost of the apprentice, the business pays the remaining 10 per cent.

Non-levy payers

• Businesses with an annual wage bill of less than £3 million won’t have to pay the levy.

• Instead the government will pay 90% of any apprenticeship training costs, and the business will contribute just 10%.

• The business will receive a £1,000 payment for recruiting 16-18 year old apprentices.

• If the business employs less than 50 staff and they recruit an apprentice aged 16-18, the training is fully funded.

• They also won’t have to pay National Insurance contributions for apprentices under 25.

Changing outdated perceptions of apprenticeships is something the college has strived to do in more recent years.

And thanks to the introduction of the levy, many employers who previously only offered graduate programmes are now seeing apprenticeships as the solution to skills gaps at higher levels, and plan to recruit high level and degree apprentices instead. Great news for both employers and training providers like Gloucestershire College. However, there’s still work to be done to ensure the success and longevity of apprenticeships.

Perceptions still need to change

Young people are still not getting up-to-date careers advice from schools, and unfortunately many teachers and parents are still pushing the traditional A-level and university route as the only way to gain a successful career.

Some look down on apprenticeships and many don’t even realise you can train for an apprenticeship in everything from accountancy to law, engineering to cyber security. But thanks to new legislation, schools must now give equal airtime to apprenticeship providers and colleges, to provide a full and balanced careers advice programme.

Apprentices need apprenticeships

Training providers like the colleges, local businesses and the government need to ensure that every young person who wants to do an apprenticeship can do the one they want. The new reforms didn’t necessarily support this, as many small businesses were at risk of not being able to access funding for young people.

However this should be rectified and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has called for a minimum government budget of £1 billion for non-levy payers to guarantee apprenticeship delivery for SMEs, regardless of the levy.

Training & Apprenticeships Training & Apprenticeships

Frameworks are changing

In addition to funding reforms, the way apprenticeships are created, delivered and tested are also changing; with traditional frameworks being replaced by new apprenticeship standards and an end point assessment.

This means that it may now be possible for an apprentice to complete their apprenticeship without gaining a qualification, and with just one test at the end. However, the College believes that skills and competency need to be assessed throughout an apprenticeship, and a nationally recognised qualification awarded at the end, to protect the quality of its apprenticeships, which is why it has a dedicated team of Training Coordinators and Assessors at the GC Business Hub who support apprentices and their training providers every step of the way.

Peter White, vice-principal at Gloucestershire College, said: “The success of our recent Apprenticeship Information Evening – when over 1,000 people attended to see 32 local businesses – demonstrates just how important apprenticeships are to the local economy.

“Gloucestershire College is proud of its long tradition of delivering successful apprenticeships – at this time of change we are working across the county within many sectors, advising employers; guiding people to choose the right path for them; delivering high quality learning that works; and supporting our partners and apprentices every step of the way.

“The GC Business Hub is happy to help businesses on their journey through the apprenticeship reforms and levy in any way it can and we look forward to seeing just how these changes will benefit both the businesses and our apprentices in the future.”

For more details visit www.gloscol.ac.uk/levy or call the GC Business Hub on 01452 563403.

Building bridges between employers and school-leavers

Addressing the gap between education and skills is at the forefront of Cirencester College’s apprenticeship programme.

It works across business sectors from accountancy to business admin, creative and digital media to customer service, and IT to teaching and management.

The team is made up of industry experts, who actively go out to employers to talk about apprenticeship opportunities - whether you’re a small business or a larger, Apprenticeship Levy-paying company.

Sarah Helbrow is the college’s apprenticeship manager. She says the scheme has had a positive impact on local businesses, individuals and the Gloucestershire economy.

“With clear Government support for the growth of apprenticeships, the college is seeing a rising interest in apprenticeship opportunities,” she added.

“Some young people decide to enter into an apprenticeship at 16 rather than continue with full-time education.

“Many will stay in education until 18 to gain further qualifications and then choose an apprenticeship route as a natural progression from college or sixth form.

“Whatever age or stage an individual starts an apprenticeship, there is no doubt that it is a valuable route in to employment, and our statistics back this up – 90 per cent of our completing apprentices last year remained with the same employer after they finished their apprenticeship. For us, this does confirm the value of apprenticeships to both the employer and the apprentice.”

She said apprenticeships give companies the opportunity to grow their skills base, which in turn can lead to business growth. “We pride ourselves in developing genuine partnerships with local employers who have a shared vision about the value and purpose of apprenticeship training, she said.

To find out more about employing an apprentice or apprenticeship opportunities in the Cirencester area, contact the apprenticeship team on 01285 626259 or email apprenticeships@cirencester.ac.uk.

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