Apprenticeships – ‘quantity for quality’ – expert reaction to latest IFS findings

The government is committed to creating 3 million apprenticeships over five years from 2015 to 2020. From April 2017 an apprenticeship levy will be introduced which will see a tax of 0.5% on employers’ payroll above £3million per year. But an IFS report says that the rapid increase in the number of apprenticeships could turn them into ‘just another training scheme.’

Expert comment on the apprenticeship levy from Professor Ewart Keep, Director Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance, Department of Education, Oxford University:

“The contents of this report come as little surprise. The government has been repeatedly warned, by researchers, by public and private training providers, and by employer bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), that its plans were liable to run into serious difficulties. It would have been much wiser if the government had threatened the use of a levy and seen if this changed firms’ training policies before moving to introduce such a measure. Because the levy was announced without prior warning, and the case for it had not been previously established, it has met with predictable resistance.

It is highly likely that some firms will ‘game the system’ and re-label existing training activity as apprenticeships in order to recoup as much of their levy payments as they can. There is a very strong possibility that we will trade quantity for quality. It is also highly likely that many public sector bodies will struggle to meet the government’s arbitrary target for apprenticeship places while they are simultaneously cutting jobs to meet government spending targets.

The fact that the levy is being introduced alongside parallel reforms of almost every other aspect of apprenticeship (funding systems, apprenticeship standards and design, and assessment procedures) makes it even harder to achieve success. There is a grave danger of reform overload.”

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