Business leaders voice fresh concerns over apprenticeship levy

Katja Hall, the CBI's deputy director general
Katja Hall, the CBI's deputy director general
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BUSINESS LEADERS have voiced fresh concerns about Government plans for a levy on larger employers to fund apprenticeships, saying it would not deliver the high quality training the country needs.

The CBI said an apprenticeship levy, announced in last week’s Budget, would also do little to help smaller firms.

A survey of more than 300 firms, employing over a million people, found that over two thirds believed they will need staff with higher level skills in the coming years.

Just over half voiced concerns on their ability to recruit suitably skilled workers.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director general, said: “The Government has set out its stall to create a high-skilled economy, but firms are facing a skills emergency now, threatening to starve economic growth.

“Worryingly, it’s those high-growth, high-value sectors with the most potential which are the ones under most pressure. That includes construction, manufacturing, science, engineering and technology.

“The new levy announced in the Budget may guarantee funding for more apprenticeships, but it’s unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs.

“Levies on training already exist in the construction sector where two-thirds of employers are already reporting skills shortages.

“The best way to plug the skills gaps and provide quality training is to speed up existing apprenticeships reforms already under way and encourage smaller firms to get involved.”

Rod Bristow, president of learning company Pearson, which helped with the research, added: “The Government is right to be ambitious about apprenticeships. We need more higher-level apprenticeships in high growth sectors like biotech, engineering, and technology, as well as traditional ones.”

The manufacturers’ organisation EEF last week claimed that the Chancellor had “double faulted” on the training levy.

Andy Tuscher, regional director, said: “Until we see the detail it is not clear how this will help deliver the high quality apprenticeships we urgently need. Employers must be in the driving seat on this reform to ensure we get the right quality of apprenticeships and training. There will be no tolerance for recreating the failed skills bureaucracy of the past.”