DEBATE: Over a year after its introduction, has the apprenticeship levy already failed?

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Apprenticeship starts are down by a quarter this year (Source: Getty)

Over a year after its introduction, has the apprenticeship levy already failed?

Jamie Kerr, head of external affairs at the Institute of Directors, says YES.

The government’s levy was brought in to “deliver new apprenticeships”, and yet apprenticeship starts are down by a quarter this year following its introduction. By any analysis, it has been unsuccessful.

At first, the decline could be dismissed as a bedding in period, but a year down the line and with no sign of a pick-up in starts, it is clear that the new system has some serious flaws.

The main problem is the lack of flexibility for employers over where and how the funding can be allocated. This stops it reaching the places it could be put to best use.

The difficulty in getting funds out of the system also means many that view the levy simply as a tax.

The government’s target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 now looks like a pipe-dream. It’s time for action, beginning with consultation with businesses to ensure that the reformed system works for employers and apprentices alike.

Read more: Drop in apprenticeships sparks calls for reform of levy-based system

Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, says NO.

Apprenticeships are in the midst of major reform to raise their quality – now is not the time to lose our bottle.

Under these reforms, employers are replacing old frameworks which were not fit for purpose and designing new high quality apprenticeship standards in a much wider range of occupations, up to degree and masters level in some cases. The levy is key to this, effectively doubling the annual investment available for apprenticeship training. It presents a real opportunity for businesses, if they choose to take it.

More than 100,000 people have now started these new apprenticeships. While the number of starts has dropped overall, that is due to the number of starts on the old frameworks declining; the growth in starts on the new standards has increased by 850 per cent in the last year.

The apprenticeship reforms offer a tremendous opportunity, but one which requires employers to remain focused on the goal: to provide transformational opportunities for individuals and businesses across the country.

Read more: The apprenticeship levy can help to train the workforce of tomorrow

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