From education to employment

An Apprenticeship Shake Up with No Bubbles or Fizz

Charlie Mullins OBE, Founder of Pimlico Plumbers

For months now, Brexit has been soaking up all the political oxygen in the UK, so, you can imagine my excitement when I saw “Apprenticeship Levy Shake-up”, flash up in my news alerts this morning.

I don’t even know why I’m surprised, but Philip Hammond’s announcement, of the long awaited changes to the Apprenticeship Levy, are disappointing to say the least.

Since the Levy was introduced in April last year, there’s been tangible evidence of the policy failing. Large businesses and SMEs alike, all spoke out about the complicated, restrictive, and senseless policy which only served to disincentives businesses to put young apprentices on their books.

That is emphatically not, a successful policy. But not one person responsible for education in the Government, stood up and accepted that the Levy was a dead in the water and needed to be changed.

In fact, there were countless claims that the Levy was going to pull through, and was the right policy for the UK, ingoing the countless opportunities to address the very real and urgent concerns from businesses.

But let’s not be under any illusions. Ignoring businesses has been a common theme under Theresa May, and we only need to think about Brexit for evidence of it.  

So it seems a little convenient, that at a time when the Tories are on the back foot for snubbing businesses over Brexit warnings, and May’s failure to speak up for business, continues to fuel the popularity of Labour’s anti-corporate agenda – that today Hammond announces, that the government will consult businesses on the operation of the apprenticeship levy. It’s a pathetic attempt to sweeten relationships with businesses, and I see right through it.

I have been countlessly pushing for the government to involve businesses, to create the most effective apprenticeship policy for the UK – but the timing of this, is simply a thin and fragile veil to drape over the bruises left by Brexit.

Worse yet, Hammond’s announcement proclaims the government will only be looking for these so called ‘views of industry’ on the Apprenticeship Levy after 2020… I know how this story ends; waiting two years to address an inadequate policy, seals the devastating fate on the bright and eternal youth of Britain.

So, no, I don’t feel this ‘shake up’ is anything to celebrate, but it is just a way of distracting from the two B’s tormenting the rest of the Government, Boris and Brexit.

Figures released last month showed the number of new apprenticeships in the UK fell 28 per cent to 341,700 in the year to June which is nothing short of a disgrace. Aside from the Brexit bandage, Hammond has also announced the opportunity for big businesses to hand over 25% of their levy funds to smaller businesses within their supply chains.

But this all just sounds like adding more layers of bureaucracy to a policy which should be easy and streamlined with one main objective; getting more young people into work.

Charlie Mullins OBE, Founder of Pimlico Plumbers

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