This week the Association of Employment and Learning Providers called on the government to stop subsidising all level 6 and 7 apprenticeships.

Their proposal is radical because big employers have lapped up the opportunity to develop and have subsidised many expensive professional level apprenticeships to replace existing training schemes.

Take the level six accountancy / taxation professional standard with a £21,000 funding cap for example, developed by firms including KPMG, Ernst and Young and PWC. 

In less than two years since being introduced there had been 5,790 starts on this standard (2,080 of them coming in just the first four months of 2018/19), representing two thirds of all the starts on non-degree level 6 and 7 standards with a maximum cost coming in at over £120 million.

Take the level 6 Chartered Manager standard with a £22,000 funding cap for example, developed by firms including Barclays Bank, Santander and Virgin Media.

There had been 4,250 starts on this standard up until the end of November 2018 (1,300 of them coming in just the first four months of 2018/19), representing nearly half of all the starts on non-integrated degree level 6 and 7 standards with a maximum cost coming in at over £100 million.

Take the level 6 Digital and Technology Solutions Professional standard with a £21,000 funding cap for example, developed by firms including Accenture, GSK and Fuijitsu and assessed by over 20 universities.

There had been 3,020 starts on this standard up until the end of November 2018 (840 of them coming in just the first four months of 2018/19), representing three quarters of all the starts on integrated degree level 6 and 7 standards with a maximum cost coming in at over £50 million.

And overall, up to the end of November 2018 the 41 standards at level 6 and 7 have already secured up to half a billion of funding.

In addition, there are 38 standards at level 6 and 7 approved for delivery but with no starts as at the end of November 2018 and a whopping 87 more in development.

So a total of 168 standards at level 6 and 7 that the AELP says should no longer be funded by the levy, but instead by the employer or apprentice with a loan.

In light of the fall in participation at the lower levels, it is not hard to agree with the AELP, even if such a radical idea simply serves to push for a more honest debate about what the levy should be spent on.

The levy should not be ‘dead weight’, defined as public subsidy replacing employer spend on ongoing staff development at degree and graduate level.

The levy should be spent on supporting people that would not otherwise be assisted, primarily young people entering trades and professions at level 2 and 3.

Simples.