Embargoed until Tuesday, 11 February 2020, 00.01hrs


“Leave the apprenticeship levy alone”, say group of UK’s largest employers


On behalf of a group of large apprenticeship levy paying employers including RBS, Coca-Cola European Partners and Kier Group, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers is issuing a statement which calls for the government to leave the levy alone, preserve entry points to apprenticeships at all levels and recognise that SMEs need their apprenticeships properly funded as well skilled supply chains.

Chair of the large employer group, Sharon Blyfield of Coca-Cola European Partners, said:

“Following an amazing National Apprenticeship Week, we have seen fantastic examples of the incredible opportunities that exist for apprentices and employers. We have seen levy paying employers embracing apprenticeships at all levels. We all know the transformation that an apprenticeship can bring to someone’s life while giving employers the skilled workforce they need.

“Concern about the future funding of non-levy payers is shared by large levy paying employers but the last thing we want is any major change in policy that will undoubtedly stifle and disrupt the future development of the apprenticeship programme.

“The following statement has been prepared by a number of large employers in the UK representing different business sectors. We know that the government shares our vision for a world class apprenticeship programme that improves people’s jobs and careers, and results in business getting the workforce they need to improve productivity. We hope government will listen carefully to our recommendations when considering how to develop the apprenticeship programme for the coming years.”


Statement from Group of Large Levy-Paying Employers

  1. Employers are fully supportive of the apprenticeship reforms and do not want significant change. Continuity is vital and any enhancements should be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
  2. Apprenticeships must provide unconstrained entry points into employment which will vary from employer to employer, and job to job. For many level 2 is vital; however for many other employers it could be any other level up to level 7 or a range of levels.
  3. The apprenticeship reforms were designed to be employer-led and this should continue. Employers must be free to spend their levy in line with their business strategy and workforce planning, and on whom they feel would benefit from additional training through an apprenticeship.
  4. SMEs have suffered and been held back because of the constraints on the non-levy budget allocation. SMEs provide national coverage, and as a supply chain and a supply of labour to levy payers, are seen as a critical part of the apprenticeship system. Government should commit to a ring-fenced and guaranteed non-levy budget of at least £1.5bn and have separate, segregated funding approaches between levy and non-levy paying employers.
  5. Education is compulsory up to the age of 18; therefore apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year olds should be funded separately out of the DfE 16-18 budget, regardless of where they work, the vocational area of the level or programme they choose to undertake.
  6. Degree apprenticeships help widen access, drive progression, improve retention and change employee perceptions. In essence, degree apprenticeships are at the beginning of a journey, with employers likely to have a blended approach with degree apprenticeships complementing alongside rather than replacing traditional graduate recruitment programmes. Degree apprenticeships, particularly but not exclusively in the public sector have allowed individuals including the over 25s to get a degree when they otherwise would not have been able to do so due to falling short of normal degree entry requirements, or due to financial constraints and personal commitments.
  7. Apprenticeships provide a range of benefits to employers and the economy including improved business productivity. Progression to higher-level apprenticeships is not the only measure of success. Promotion, increased salaries, better staff retention, productivity improvements and career prospects are all equally valued measures by employers and employees.
  8. Work-based maths and English cannot be successfully delivered while the funding is not equal to other learners. If the government is serious about improving literacy and numeracy, equivalent funding must be made available.
  9. Currently there is too much unnecessary and disproportionate bureaucracy within the apprenticeship system. Levy payers are the source of significant financial support for the apprenticeship reforms and there needs to be a higher level of trust between them and the government to deliver effective 20% off the job training. Employers and government have a mutual interest in well trained staff and much of the bureaucracy is both time consuming and unnecessary. An upfront plan, Ofsted inspections and live reporting from apprentices could replace much of the proposed form filling and be a proxy to highlight if there were any problems.
  10. Employers with their providers want to help government simplify the rules. With excessively detailed funding rules and requirements along with fragmented supporting guidance, an example of which is in the above point on off-the-job training, a more concise and targeted approach is required.

Signed by:

1. BAM Nuttall Ltd

2. Brend Hotels

3. Coca-Cola European Partners

4. DXC Technology

5. Grant Thornton UK LLP

6. Greene King plc

7. Health Education England (for NHS)

8. Kier Group

9. MAN Truck and Bus UK Ltd

10. Menzies Aviation plc

11. National Police Chiefs’ Council

12. Pearson UK

13. Royal Bank of Scotland

14. Specsavers Optical Group Ltd

15. Swissport GB Limited

16. Wagamama Group Ltd


Issued on the employers’ behalf by Association of Employment and Learning Providers 

February 2020


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