Dubbed everything from a stealth tax to a boon, the apprenticeship levy divides opinion. It is payable at a rate of 0.5 per cent by employers with wage bills bigger than £3 million.
“The complexity and inflexibility of the scheme has impeded its success,” says Hollie Ryan, associate and employment specialist at law firm Stevens & Bolton. “Some industry-specific training and qualifications are not covered.”
Despite 30 per cent of UK business being engineering related, recruitment specialists such as Encore Personnel have seen a real decrease in skills availability within blue-collar positions. Limited levy money, plus cost, prove a big deterrent, but it is also generational, says technical operations manager Louise Bragg.
“These manual positions are mainly held by the older generation,” she says. “The younger people are opting for disciplines that require less manual work, such as design engineering. There are exciting projects within rail and road crying out for these skills.”
Nevertheless, funding inequalities, disparities over standards duration, as well as lack of choice in higher levels persist, says chief executive of Skills4STEM Sarah Davis. But she remains bullish. “It’s an excuse to say the levy is not working and for employers not to engage. For those who do, it’s a fantastic opportunity to upskill existing talent and encourage new,” Ms Davis concludes.