The influential Public Accounts Committee this week warned of “risks” associated with the method of funding the apprenticeship levy – but I think its fears are misguided. MiddletonMurray has been working closely with employers who will be affected by the levy since it was first announced. In my experience, employers simply want to use the levy fund in the most effective way possible for their business. This will vary from organisation to organisation – and of course for many there will be a portion of the levy fund which will be used for the training of existing members of staff.
I agree with the report that the government must take whatever steps it can to ensure that there is no abuse of the funding - but there is no desire to ‘game’ the system. Employers simply want to get the best value that they can from their levy fund and they know that apprentices are a valuable asset to their business.
There has been an education process around the levy and apprenticeships a whole, but firms are keen to learn and move forward; if organisations are properly informed about the benefits of the levy, they will be more enthused about using their levy funding in the way that is most effective for their business. That is why MiddletonMurray is offering companies consultancy services so that they can be fully versed on all of the options available to them.
We’re seeing a great level of interest in our Levy consultancy services, which is encouraging and we certainly haven't experienced any inherent resistance to the levy. There has been such an increase in positivity surrounding apprenticeships that the levy is a logical next step and employers do accept this. Some are warier than others, but this comes down to the fact that they are simply keen to use the funds they accrue to their full advantage.
I think that the government should focus its attentions on making sure that all employers affected by the levy are as well-informed as possible, because if they use their levy to its full advantage, they will reap the rewards and be keen to use subsequent funds for the continuing benefit of their business. Once a business has taken on one apprentice, it’s very rare that they are unwilling to take on more, and the levy provides an effective means of doing this, which will actually make life easier longer term.
The report also states that “Levy-paying employers will be allowed to use their contributions to fund a greater number of apprenticeships among their own workforce.” It goes without saying that the primary reason for the levy being implemented is to create new apprenticeships, but this does not mean that the training that is offered to existing staff is not beneficial. Yes, these members of staff are already in a secure job, but it is extremely important that businesses keep investing in them, and sometimes it simply won’t be possible for companies to use their whole levy fund on new apprentices. In the case of many large local authorities, for example, they would have to take on thousands of new apprentices every year to utilise the funds available to them, which would not be feasible.
We need to be pragmatic – not every business up and down the country will be willing to embrace change with open arms, but in my experience, there is not this intense resistance to the levy that is feared. By ensuring that employers have all the facts and access to proper consultancy services which will help them to make informed decisions on how to use their funds, I have no reason to believe the levy will be anything other than a success.
Angela Middleton, CEO and Founder of MiddletonMurray