This month all UK employers with an annual pay bill of over 3 million will start to contribute to the apprenticeship levy. The first funds to spend on apprenticeship training will hit the new digital apprenticeship accounts in May. But if you haven’t started to prepare don’t worry, there’s still time, the first funds won’t expire for 24 months. If you are a levy payer and you haven’t registered for the apprenticeship service yet you can do so here.

The skills challenge was at the forefront of the Government’s recent spring budget announcements, with additional investment of £500m by 2022 promised to deliver the new T-levels for technical education. The plans to reform technical education were first outlined in the Post-16 Skills Plan published back in July 2016. The Plan set out an ambitious programme of work to streamline thousands of qualifications into 15 new technical routes. The introduction of T-Levels will increase the amount of training for 16 to 19-year-olds by more than 50 per cent to over 900 hours a year, including the completion of a high-quality industry work placement, to begin in 2019. Hopefully these reforms will go some way to addressing the “substantial gap in provision” with respect to technical education noted by the OECD in 2014.

However, the vast majority of the 2030 workforce are already in work, and will be untouched by the current round of educational reforms. That’s why it is critical for the UK’s economy that the new apprenticeship funding regime leads to an overall increase in employer training effort, and helps to counteract the decline in training volume and investment that has occurred over the last 20 years. In research published last year we raised concerns over the potential of the levy to have damaging unintended consequences, undermining efforts to improve the quality of apprenticeships. In today’s fast moving and competitive world the skills and capabilities of the workforce are vital to economic sustainability and growth. If we are to meet the huge challenges of rapid technological change, an ageing workforce, and increasingly complex organisational structures, the ability to upskill and reskill our workforces needs a much stronger emphasis. With the introduction of the apprenticeship levy now imminent there is an urgent need to ensure that the reforms drive quality over quantity and deliver the skills needed now and in the future.

About the authors

Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser - Skills

Lizzie is a policy and research professional with over 13 years’ experience in the employment and skills arena, having worked with both the public and private sector to develop high-quality research to inform organisational practice, public policy and shape the public debate.

Prior to joining the CIPD Lizzie led The Work Foundation's research and policy development on the youth labour market – and has published a number of influential reports on youth unemployment. She has regularly appeared on national and regional TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC the One Show, the Today Programme and Channel 4 news. Lizzie graduated in Sociology and has a master's degree in Social Science Research Methods, both from the University of Glasgow.

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