The Government is consulting on how it should introduce an apprenticeship levy as part of plans to provide three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. Larger firms — thought to be more than 250 employees — will pay into an apprenticeship fund to help pay for the system.
Employers large and small will then purchase training for apprentices using digital vouchers to be spent on providers of their choice. Large employers that do not train enough apprentices will see their contribution redistributed to other employers, meaning those who do train apprentices could get more back than they put in.
For larger BALI members that already train apprentices "this could be a cost-efficient way of attracting and retaining staff and continuing [or] expanding their existing schemes", said BALI chief executive Wayne Grills.
"It is, of course, a cost burden on companies that don’t want to have apprentices and only want to employ the finished article. But frankly, with the skills shortage so pronounced, there are fewer skilled operatives around to employ so larger companies particularly should surely be rethinking the way they are going to staff their companies in the future and embrace this opportunity."
Choice of trainers, one of the biggest issues, will require checks and balances to avoid poor training providers abusing the system, Grills added. He wants to see the levy combined with employer-led apprenticeships. These are currently being worked on by the horticulture and landscaping Trailblazer group, which sees representatives from across the industry working to design training that will meet the industry’s specific needs.
But he said the industry will still be competing with apprenticeship schemes across other sectors. "It is crucial therefore to offer a quality scheme with real career prospects that is then promoted by Government," he said. BALI is talking with members before responding to the consultation, which runs until 2 October. Search "apprenticeships levy" at www.gov.uk to read the consultation.