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I have written previously about my concerns relating to non-levy apprenticeship funding.

Now the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), of which we are a member, has confirmed there are serious issues to resolve in the roll-out of the Government's apprenticeship reforms.

AELP represents the interests of more than 950 organisations that deliver apprenticeships, employability support and vocational learning. Its members are responsible for the delivery of over 75% of apprenticeships in England.

In a survey of members 70% to 80% of providers reported that:

  • employers are struggling to understand and engage with the new apprenticeship system
  • non-levy funding is insufficient to meet SME employer demand
  • not enough new apprenticeship standards are in place
  • a lack of available programme end-point assessment is a concern

Confirmation of the principal concerns go a long way to explain why the latest official set of apprenticeship start numbers are over 50% down on a year ago.

The Institute for Apprenticeships has now introduced its ‘Faster and Better’ process for approving standards but the survey reveals 60% of providers are still doing the bulk of their training under the old apprenticeship frameworks and only 27% have been able to move the majority of their provision to standards.

On non-levy funding, the Government has allocated up to £650m for the 15 months of January 2018 to end March 2019, but last year SMEs were accounting for approximately £1bn of the total apprenticeship budget over a 12 month period and so the funding available to them has been cut dramatically.

AELP CEO Mark Dawe says: "While AELP remains supportive of the apprenticeship policy, the levy itself and standards, the survey results do underline the sheer scale of the challenges and the urgent need to make changes to the way that the apprenticeship reforms have been introduced."  

Over half of providers are changing how they are delivering apprenticeship training in response to the reforms:

  • 55% are moving their provision to a different sector or occupational area
  • 53% are seeing their delivery switch over more to larger levy-paying employers 
  • 42% are running more higher level apprenticeship programmes in response to employer demand

Mr Dawe adds: "The switch to more higher level apprenticeships is good for the programme’s reputation but we have to get the balance of provision right from level 2 to levels 6 and 7. 

"As the recent AELP policy submission showed, it’s vital for a post-Brexit economy and social mobility that lower level provision isn’t abandoned and this means getting the way it’s funded right. 

"This is why AELP is calling for an immediate suspension of employer contributions for 16 to 24 year apprentices at levels 2 and 3 by non-levy payers or those employers that exceed their levy."

AELP Full Membership is available to any organisation delivering Government-funded skills or employability programmes to learners, apprentices or jobseekers.

 As a Full Member organisations benefit from:

  • Effective lobbying services that ensure their interests are represented
  • Up-to-date information and insight regarding the latest changes in the sector
  • Added value support to strengthen their business, including practical support and access to the Apprenticeship Levy Model Contract
  • Access to AELP events, sector forums and sector interest groups enabling them to share their insight, influence the agenda, network and collaborate