Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

As the Government has recently highlighted, apprenticeships work. According to Skills Minister Robert Halfon, over 90% of apprentices currently go into work or further training. It’s therefore no surprise that more are desired, and, with the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy, more should be delivered.

The new levy is now just weeks away. As of 6 April 2017, the start of the new tax year, all UK employers who have an annual pay bill of at least £3 million will be required to invest in apprenticeships, through a charge of 0.5 per cent against their annual pay bill. This equates to less than two per cent of employers.

In England, control of apprenticeship funding will be put in the hands of employers through the Digital Apprenticeship Service; and each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. If they choose to, employers can spend their levy contributions on apprenticeship training. If they don’t invest this money within a two year period then it will be returned to the Government to invest in apprenticeships elsewhere.

While most of the focus has been on those larger companies required to pay the levy, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact apprenticeships can prove an invaluable resource for small businesses too. According to 2014 research AAT carried out with CEBR, apprentices were worth around £1.8 billion to the UK’s net economy in the previous year. More recent AAT research found that some SMEs were realising the benefits of the scheme, with around a quarter planning to take on at least one apprentice in the coming 12 months. Of those SMEs who already did take on apprentices, around 50 per cent kept on at least half of them for the longer term.

SMEs make up around 99 per cent of all businesses in the UK, and are a significant pool from which to drive up apprenticeship numbers. The fact that so many SMEs we spoke to were retaining a good number of their apprentices demonstrates how successful apprenticeship schemes can lead to sustained employment.

Sources of advice areas such as the Informi web site for small businesses offer small businesses thinking about taking on apprentices some practical tips and guidance on how to do so.

The new levy should help address decades of widespread underinvestment in skills. In addition, it should support realising the Government’s target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.

However, a focus solely on chasing apprenticeship starts targets is not enough. This needs to be backed up by a focus on timely apprenticeship completions and sustained employment, along with a focus on the schemes being high-quality and meeting the needs of the wider economy. Currently, almost 30 per cent fail to complete their apprenticeship, while in some sectors, apprenticeships appear to hold little value in the eyes of employers and don’t offer enough transferrable skills for the individual – benefitting no-one.

It was interesting to note that the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in a report issued in late January, concluded that the large expansion of the target risked “increasing quantity at the expense of quality,” – something that AAT has long since argued.

With some relatively minor changes, the levy could provide a real opportunity for companies to develop high-quality apprentices for the benefit of their own workforce and related productivity into the UK workforce as a whole. It could also be extended, perhaps to an ‘Apprenticeship and Skills Levy’, meaning the monies raised are also improving high quality traineeships and other forms of training to benefit the skillsets of other employees. There is already political support for such a change. AAT and ACCA surveyed MPs across all parties on this issue, with two in three supporting our suggestion that the levy could be developed in such a way to allow broader funding for skills other than apprenticeships.

One issue that most can agree on is that the introduction of the levy will help focus the attention of employers on the benefits apprentices can bring. Hopefully, this will also lead them to consider having, or improving on existing, structured training programmes. Our research suggests that this helps not only the employee but also the organisation, as it is likely to improve their productivity, and also their loyalty to the company, as training schemes can help people feel valued.

With approximately 20 per cent of our 80,000 student base taking an apprenticeship, AAT takes a keen interest in this area. In general terms, the levy is a good thing for British businesses, but increasing its flexibility would foster improved productivity across the whole workforce, deliver greater value for money and yet have no significant revenue implications for the taxpayer. This would benefit individuals, employers and the economy as a whole.

Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

#SkillsWorldLive Video: Why is it important to have diversity in apprenticeships?

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Edge Future Learning - Making education relevant...

Building on our work with Edge Future Learning Leaders and Partners around the world, our model includes three key principles that help bring...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page