Pre-apprenticeship salary cap 'palatable' to limit demand, says skills minister

One of most “palatable” decisions the government could make to constrain the apprenticeship budget is introducing a pre-apprenticeship salary cap, the skills minister has said.

Anne Milton was quizzed on the future affordability of the programme after what is likely to be her last speech in post, at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers conference today.

Asked if the Treasury does not invest more money into the apprenticeships system, what “hard choices” the Department for Education could make to ensure the budget doesn’t go bust, she said there are “lots of things government could do”.

But a “pre-apprenticeship salary limit” was “one of the most palatable”.

She said she was “very uncomfortable” with the idea of “limiting by age because I meet an awful lot of people in their 40s and 50s who are returning to work and training up and changing careers – I would find that extremely difficult”.

“As I say, pre-apprenticeship pay is probably one of the most palatable things that I’ve seen,” Milton added, “but ask Keith Smith, I don’t like any of them”.

It comes after the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education estimated that the budget could be overspent by £0.5 billion this year, rising to £1.5 billion during 2021/22.

Following a National Audit Office report that said “something is going to have to give” in the upcoming spending review, the DfE’s permanent secretary Jonathan Slater told the education select committee that “hard choices” may need to be made.

It led to the AELP making the radical proposal that all level 6 and 7 apprenticeships, including those with integrated degrees, should be removed from the scope of levy funding to relieve mounting pressure on the budget.