Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan Financial

Richard Marsh gives his balanced and constructive response to the recent report from think tank Reform, "The Great Training Robbery: assessing the first year of the apprenticeship levy".

The impact of the levy on apprenticeship quantity

The Levy itself has not caused a reduction in Apprenticeships. How could it as each extra pound that it allocates to apprenticeships this year is new? 

It has reduced the amount of money spent on Learning & Development (L&D) outside of Apprenticeships though as levy payers reduce other budgets to compensate (and this has had a knock-on impact). 

The levy has also moved money around - away from the North East and North West for example and into the South East, as it is based on earnings not on government spending priorities. 

It has also caused a major headache for employers with staff across the UK and different funding agencies refuse to offer a joined-up UK wide solution. 

The biggest drivers of reduced volumes have been:

  1. Slashing of funding rates for Frameworks (making them uneconomical to deliver), whilst
  2. Asking each provider to individually invest in setting up for new standard delivery which is stretching the resources of businesses that have been crippled by years of falling prices 

It will take up to 3 years before the volume of starts on new standards matches that of frameworks, and the new distribution will undoubtedly be different to the old.

Should the target for 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020 be abandoned?

Why? it is only a symbolic number. Removing the target does not affect:

  • How the levy works
  • Transition from Frameworks to Standards etc
  • The 20% rule
  • Subcontracting

The target is only political, and we must remember it predates the levy.

The 3m was based on the amount of funding the Government was prepared to spend on apprenticeships between 2015-2020 before it thought of the Levy. Thus, the levy is now the key lever for controlling volumes. 

Given the choice, it is likely that employers will continue to choose to invest most in training their existing employees and to spend what they see as their money on the qualifications and skills that they valued before the levy began. 

The impact of the levy on apprenticeship quality

The Levy has introduced an increased sense of employer ownership generally and it has increased levels scrutiny from employers on the service and quality they receive from providers.

The move to Standards and their EPAs has meant a stronger focus on Teaching & Learning (as opposed to Assessing) and we all hope this will improve the learning experience, but it is surely too early to tell.

Should the Government introduce a new internationally benchmarked definition of an ‘apprenticeship’, and any apprenticeship standard that does not meet this definition withdrawn?

Perhaps - but this is not compatible with an all age, all level programme which is what we have implemented. 

The dual-system is the only long-term successful and sustainable model (and so the international benchmark) and it relies on a VET classroom curriculum that is wider than any of our apprenticeships (i.e. it includes study of foreign languages. politics etc).

This type of study won't work for busy adult workers, so we can either have:

  • An all age programme that is 'light' enough curriculum to suit all
  • A classroom-based 16-19 WBL programme
  • Two apprenticeship systems. 

How the levy has affected employers

With 60% of Levy paying employers having already opened an account, it is clear that only those companies with a very healthy profit margin - or a very small levy payment - have ignored its introduction. 

The Levy has changed how larger organisation manage L&D spend. It has often acted as a catalyst for centralising L&D budgets at large employers. With 'head office' HR staff being appointed as 'Levy managers' for whole companies and a new wave of corporate L&D reviews and strategies. 

What has not yet happened is the creation of lots of new school to work programmes - traditional apprenticeships - and of course, this is a cause for criticism and concern. 

However, these places will come with time as employers find that all of their most obvious in-house / existing employee training needs have been served and the demographic timebomb combined with Brexit means that we need to train more job entrants. 

Should the requirement for 10 percent employer co-investment towards the cost of training apprentices be removed with immediate effect, to avoid employers disengaging from apprenticeships?

This is a good idea, as the to and fro of cash between businesses and providers is just a frustration for most. 

The separation of funding for the Functional skills required by Apprenticeships from other Apprenticeship funding is also an unnecessary complication. 

Should the Government replace the existing HMRC digital payment system with a simpler ‘apprenticeship voucher’ model, to give employers control of government funding while reducing their administrative burdens?

I think it’s too early to give up on 'DAS’, but it would be good to have more investment in the system and more employer help before it goes live with 2 million business in April 2019....

How the levy has affected providers

It has been a huge cost for providers, but with the potential of huge rewards. And we are almost free of the subcontracting tax and the tyranny of contract allocations. 

I believe that we now have the opportunity to become mature partners with employers and to be seen as less of the state apparatus. And with the increased blurring of the lines between commercial L&D / Apprenticeships and HE there is the opportunity for providers to be defined by their expertise rather than their funding category. 

Should all apprenticeship standards and end-point assessments for apprentices should be assigned a fixed cost by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, to remove the need for complicated price and contract negotiations between employers and both training and assessment providers?

This cannot work with the funding band system. The bigger crime is that we have decided some people (i.e. the young and low skilled in the main) are only worth a £2,500 apprenticeship (including EPA) - where is the parity of esteem there? There should be a minimum of £5,000 spent per person.

Should the exam regulator Ofqual be made the only option for quality assuring the end-point assessments for apprentices, to ensure that standards are maintained over time and poor practice is quickly identified and eradicated?

Yes! This is a no brainer.

Why not also solve the level 5+ non-prescribed Apprenticeship quality assurance riddle too: is it Oftsed, is it QAA?

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan Financial

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Lewisham College has published a new article: Lewisham College wins Double Gold Award 11 hours 7 minutes ago
Sharon Walpole added a new event 11 hours

CareermapLive: An Introduction to WorldSkills UK...

During this live webinar, you'll have the opportunity to learn about our skills competition development programme which provides colleges,...

  • Wednesday, 28 April 2021 03:30 PM
  • Online Event, UK

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 May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 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.

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