Prime Minister outlines apprenticeship transformation plans

David Cameron is set to outline the government’s plans to increase the number of UK apprenticeships, and has also released an open consultation document, giving the public a chance to share their ideas on how to pay towards the apprenticeship levy.

According to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), UK business investment into apprenticeship schemes and training has rapidly declined over the past 20 years, with UK productivity falling behind other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Cameron and the Conservative government aim to remedy this situation by enforcing a number of legislation changes that aim to meet the government’s plan of creating 3m apprenticeships by 2020.

As well as implementing an apprenticeship levy on all big businesses by 2017, the government plans to:

  • A requirement to take into account apprenticeship schemes when awarding businesses with large government accounts (contracts worth over £10m). Employers’ bids will be reviewed in line with best practice for the number of apprentices that they expect to support.
  • Publishing new industry standards developed by the government’s ‘Trailblazer’ initiative, in order to make sure that apprentices meet the standards of their prospective companies.
  • The Department of Transport has pledged to create 30,000 apprenticeships in the road and rail sector this Parliament.

Prime Minister David Cameron commented on the announcement, emphasising the importance of apprenticeships on the future of the UK’s workforce.

‘‘The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce. And by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business.’’

‘‘As a one nation government, we are committed to supporting 3 million quality apprenticeships over the next 5 years – to help strengthen our economy, deliver the skills that employers need and give millions more hardworking people financial security and a brighter future.’’

Cameron has also confirmed the launch of BIS’ new open consultation document, entitled ‘Apprenticeships levy: employer owned apprenticeships training.’ This government document will give the general public the opportunity to give their views on:

  • How to pay the apprenticeship levy.
  • How the levy should work for employers who operate across the whole of the UK.
  • How to make sure that employers paying the levy have the opportunity to get more out than they put in.
  • How best to give employers control of apprenticeships.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has already hit out at the consultation document, stating that it fails to include critical issues.

‘‘The UK needs a world-class apprenticeship system which delivers the higher level skills that business and the workforce need,’’ stated Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills.

‘‘We must not sacrifice quality for quantity.  While we did not support the introduction of a levy, the key thing now is that the apprenticeships it delivers meet business demand and give young people routes to great careers and higher pay.’’

‘‘The best way to drive up quality is to give employers real control and ensure that levy cash is committed to only funding apprenticeships in levy-paying businesses.’’

‘‘The consultation is welcome – but there is much to do to build a system that works, including deciding the rate of the levy and building a levy structure that avoids the mistakes of the past.’’