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Jill Whittaker explains how to fix the apprenticeship levy

26th Jun 2024 - 04:00
Jill Whittaker, executive chair at HIT Training, explores ways to overcome the shortcomings of the apprenticeship levy and bring more young people into the industry.

As we approach the General Election, apprenticeships are hitting the headlines with the Conservative Party promising to help fund 100,000 apprenticeships per year, while Labour has said it will offer businesses flexibility on how they spend Government funds assigned to apprenticeships.

These pledges set out to tackle the recent fall in apprenticeships but overlook the fundamental issue – making the apprenticeship levy fit for purpose.

The fall in apprenticeships

Since it was introduced in 2017, the levy has been blamed for the fall in apprenticeships. But by looking at the figures, we can actually see a more complex picture.

The total number of apprenticeship starts decreased by 32% between 2016/17 and 2022/23, however, since 2023, we’ve seen an increase of 4% in companies offering their employees apprenticeship schemes within the hospitality sector.

There are a myriad of factors influencing the starts and completions of apprenticeships, not only the apprenticeship levy. But what steps could the next Government take to create a solution that meets the needs of both businesses and individuals?

Three steps to improve the levy

The first step would be to offer a more flexible approach to the minimum apprenticeship length introduced in 2012. The twelve-month minimum programme length is written in law, but the rule should be amended to allow previous experience, assessment time and initial setup to count towards this minimum duration.

The second step is to make apprenticeships more appealing to learners by removing the stress and pressures of formalised assessment. The catering and wider hospitality sector is fast paced with daily challenges that passionate employees thrive on - an apprenticeship should encourage this enthusiasm, not add stress and worry to already busy work lives.

Competency should also be demonstrated throughout the apprenticeship via work-based study, summative and formative assessments to remove the focus and pressure on end-point assessments.

Added to this, a more modularised approach to apprenticeships would also benefit both employees and businesses. This would help learners attain a full apprenticeship by building up relevant modules over time to fit around complex work schedules.

Providing learners and employers with more flexibility and control over learning, this approach would enable staff to be upskilled quickly and with the most relevant skills for their role – a key benefit for more seasonal roles.

The third and final step would be reconsidering one of the main barriers to apprenticeships: the English and maths functional skills requirements. These should be reviewed and considered in line with the apprenticeship and what is needed for the role, rather than being a blanket requirement.

Building a fit-for-purpose solution

The next Government has a real opportunity to evolve the apprenticeship levy into a more flexible system, which is fit for purpose and supports the knowledge and skills development of employees.

While the wider hospitality industry was once the second largest sector for apprenticeships, the existing levy isn’t supporting the growth or nurturing the talent currently within or entering the workforce.

We know the value apprenticeships offer in catering and hospitality and how they lead to a fulfilling career.

That’s why I’m passionate about calling on the next Government to make the system stronger and more flexible to encourage the skills and passion of our industry. Visit:   

Written by
Edward Waddell