Last week's poll: Fixing the apprenticeship system

This year’s National Apprenticeship Week was accompanied by a myriad of positive stories emanating from companies that take on apprentices and those that chose a vocational career path.

Engineering apprentices

Whilst we applaud all efforts to encourage people into the profession, it seems that one particular initiative – the government’s apprenticeship levy – has had the reverse effect.

To recap, the apprenticeship levy requires businesses in England with annual wage bills over £3m to pay 0.5 per cent of payroll costs into a training fund. Since its introduction, the number of people starting apprenticeships has dropped by around 30 per cent, with critics citing excessive red tape and an inflexible approach to funding.

Starting in April, companies will be able to share 10 per cent of their levy funding with companies in their supply chain, which could – as some suggest - be taken further with the introduction of a matching service for SMEs and apprentices.

Others question whether levy funding is being spread fairly, with funds biased toward entry level apprentices rather than older employees. This particular issue wasn’t seen as pivotal in improving the apprenticeship system, with nine per cent of the 409 poll respondents agreeing that older worker should be upskilled.

A further 14 per cent took the Federation of Small Businesses line that apprenticeships could be improved with a matching service for SMEs and apprentices.

Just over a fifth (21 per cent) thought that a clearer funding framework is required, and 41 per cent saw a potential resolution to the issue with better career advice on apprenticeships. A total of 15 per cent of respondents couldn’t find a fit with their opinion, electing instead to pick ‘none of the above’.

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