Barely half of eligible employers are on the levy system

Barely half of eligible employers are on the levy system

Scarcely half of eligible employers have signed up to use the government’s apprenticeships system, new statistics published today suggest.

Just 10,500 apprenticeship service accounts were registered on the system by the end of August – well short of the estimated 19,150 levy-paying companies that are eligible to use the service.

The apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton admitted earlier this week that she was “flabbergasted” to learn that many large companies were unaware of the levy, even though they were paying it.

Today’s experimental statistics, published by the Department for Education, demonstrate that the number of employers signing up to use the service is tailing off.

FE Week reported in July that 8,300 employers had registered by the end of May.

In the three months since, the number has increased by just 2,340 – with 910 companies signing up in June, 740 in July and only 690 in August.

A Twitter survey run by the Education and Skills Funding Agency suggests that the DfE is concerned by this lack of take-up.

The survey, run by the @ESFADigitalService account, asks levy-paying employers why they’re not yet registered for the apprenticeship service, and gives four options: “not currently recruiting”, “no framework/standard”, “need skilled staff” and “other”.

But as this story was published, just an hour before the survey was due to close, there had been just six votes.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference this week, Ms Milton said she had been “quite flabbergasted” to find out that many large businesses were unaware of the apprenticeship levy, despite paying large amounts of money into the pot.

She said she’d had meetings with at least one managing director who “didn’t know anything about it”, and admitted more needed to be done to promote the levy.

The apprenticeships service is the online system that levy-paying employers use to manage their funds, including registering “commitments” or apprentices, and paying for training.

Currently only large employers that are subject to the apprenticeship levy – those with an annual wage bill of at least £3 million – can use the service.

Figures published by the DfE in August 2016 indicated that 19,150 companies – representing just 1.3 per cent of all employers – would be eligible to pay the levy.

Today’s statistics show a total of 26,700 fully confirmed commitments – meaning that both the employer and training provider have agreed the apprenticeship start – were registered through the service by the end of August.

The same @ESFADigitalService Twitter account is also currently surveying non-levy paying employers, ahead of a planned expansion of the service to include all employers by April 2019.

The DfE recently ran its fifth consultation, which closed on Tuesday, on how reforms to apprenticeship funding are affecting employers and training providers.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Through our reforms to apprenticeships, we are making sure that millions of people have access to life-changing skills they need for a successful career.

“We have been working hard to support employers, and help them understand the benefits that high-quality apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy can bring. Our records show they are engaged and ready to use their funds, and we will continue to work with them so they can invest in high-quality training.”