National Audit Office report on the Apprenticeship Programme

Roman Schwartz
March 9, 2019

The government had some way to go before it showed the scheme was value for money, the NAO added.

Under the reformed apprenticeship system, employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million pay 0.5 per cent into a digital account, which they can then recoup - along with a 10 per cent government top up - to cover the costs of training apprentices.

TARMAC are marking National Apprenticeship Week with the launch of a national recruitment programme for up to 80 new apprentices and higher apprentices to work across their business nationwide.

The apprenticeship programme offers anyone over 16 years old the opportunity to learn skills and gain a recognised qualification.

The NAO report said the DfE was now anticipating an estimated £500 million underspend of the apprenticeship levy in 2018/19, and that where employers were spending their levy, they were investing funds in more expensive apprenticeships standards where the cost of training was roughly double what the government expected.

As a result, despite the fact that many young people are only too keen to be paid to study, rather than running up student debts at college or university, the number starting apprenticeships has slumped.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said:'Despite making changes to the apprenticeships programme, the Department has not enticed employers to use available funds or encouraged enough potential recruits to start an apprenticeship. In the financial year starting April 2017, levy-paying employers used nine per cent of the funds available to them to support new apprenticeships, equating to £170m of nearly £2.2bn available.

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There has also been a decline in the lower-level apprenticeships and a rise in the higher, degree equivalent ones.

GMCA has been working to improve the quality and grow the numbers of apprenticeships in Greater Manchester, which saw 22,591 apprenticeship starts in 2017/18.

In reality, senior level apprenticeships are very much concerned with giving leaders, and future leaders, the skills they need to meet the specific needs of their business and their sector. "If the department is serious about boosting the country's productivity, it needs to set out clearly whether its efforts are on track to meet that aim".

Matthew Fell, chief United Kingdom policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, said: "Today's report confirms what employers already know - that the Apprenticeship Levy is not yet working as intended and is holding back the Government's welcome efforts to modernise the skills system".

The concept of 20% off-the-job training which forms a part of all apprenticeship schemes is frequently misconstrued as requiring those with already busy jobs to take their full-time roles down to four days a week.

Mr Green said: "National Apprenticeship Week gives us all an opportunity to celebrate the positive impact that apprenticeships have on individuals, employers and the economy".

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