Apprenticeship sector responds to Autumn Statement

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement has been met with mixed reviews from the nation’s apprenticeship providers. Find out what the likes of NIACE, the CBI and Institute of Directors (IoD) have to say on the proposed apprenticeship levy.

 

Cash protection and devolution

Responding to the Spending Review and Autumn Statement, NIACE chief executive David Hughes, said:

‘It’s clear that the Skills Minister and his officials have fought hard and skilfully in the difficult negotiations with the Treasury in a tough spending environment. Cash protection over the parliament will provide colleges and training providers with the stability and certainty they will need to invest in new approaches to adult skills.’

‘There is a lot of work to be done now so that learners across the country get access to learning opportunities they want and need. Devolution, the Apprenticeship Levy and the extension of loans all require innovation, collaboration and investment,’ continued the CEO.

‘We welcome the Chancellor’s announcements on devolution, which closely mirror our shared ambitions for more responsive local delivery of learning, skills and employment services.’

‘Now we need to use the next 18 months to develop good ideas into great practice so that local labour markets, employers, young people and adults all thrive through joined up commissioning and service delivery.’

 

‘Very concerned’ with the apprenticeship levy

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), raised fears that small and medium-sized firms will be caught out by the requirements of the tax.

‘(The levy)will also apply to more businesses than we expected because the £3m benchmark means that employers with less than 150 employees could be included in the Levy,’ said Segal, who added that there needs to be more clarity given towards the rules around the levy if we are to see an effective implementation by 2017.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, also believes that small businesses could be severely affected by the levy.

‘The apprenticeship levy, set at 0.5%, is a significant extra payroll tax on business and by widening the net it will now catch more smaller firms,’ explained Fairbairn, who ‘welcomes the creation of a levy board to give business a voice on how the money is spent and will work with the Government to ensure a focus on quality.’

Another director-general, Simon Walker of the IoD, has reservations as to how the apprenticeship levy will be implemented.

‘We are very concerned by the government’s assumption that a quarter of the money collected will be spent on just administering the levy. Firms have been promised they will get back more than they put in, but it’s not clear how this will happen if so much is being lost in bureaucracy,’ said Walker.