Digital employers voice concerns over levy plans

The Tech Partnership has published some of the findings of the government’s consultation with digital businesses over the introduction of the Apprentice Levy. And the response show that while the clarification re-skilling rules are welcomed, there is still uncertainty over much of the detail.

Sue Wilson, head of apprenticeships on behalf of the Tech Partnership, says that since digital employers will be contributing between £120m and £150m to the levy, “They’re understandably keen to ensure an output of highly capable, well-trained employees with the skills their businesses really need. There’s broad support for apprenticeships, but a fear that the emphasis on quantity – to meet the Government’s stated target of three million starts by 2020 – will detract from a necessary focus on quality.

According to Wilson, digital employers are broadly supportive but feel more can be done to push digital apprenticeships, with many concerned that, “The lack of emphasis on digital careers and apprenticeships in schools, meaning that the talent pipeline is compromised.”

 

Funding concerns aired

The issue of funding is also, not surprising, causing some concern among employers. The Tech Partnership summarised the concerns thus:

  • Most employers are happy with the Level 2 and Level 3 funding bands, but felt that higher levels were too low.
  • The hidden cost of the management of the levy, infrastructure and support has not been taken into account. Many employers believe that the costs of set up will exceed their levy pot, meaning that they will treat the levy as a write off rather than investing in skills.
  • Employers are concerned that cuts in funding for training, and a lack of flexibility on how funding can be used, will mean an inevitable fall in quality, and high quality provision will be hard to come by.

As well as concerns over funding, a large number of employers focused on flexibility and their ability to decide how to spend their levy funds.

  • They want to be able to use levy funds for the management and administration of apprenticeship programmes, and to subsidize recruitment costs and salaries for apprentices. This is critical if SMEs are to be able to take on apprentices.
  • Employers who use Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs) want to be able to use their levy funds to train their ATA apprentices.