Government silent on apprenticeship levy contingency plan

The government has refused to say if a contingency plan has been put in place in the event that the apprenticeship levy systems fail to work.

FE Week understands that the question was also asked at a government apprenticeship stakeholder group meeting, chaired by Jason Holt, held yesterday at the Department for Education (DfE).

When asked by FE Week if a contingency plan is being put together for if the levy fails, a government spokesperson refused to comment.

Instead, he said: “Our focus is on ensuring the levy works for businesses of all sizes as they adapt and seize opportunities in the coming months. We are continuing to work with employers to design the apprenticeship levy around their needs.”

Concerns around the launch and design of the levy, which is due to be rolled out in April 2017, have been aired by many in the FE sector.

FE Week revealed yesterday that the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) had insisted that the levy launch date should be delayed by the new skills minister, Robert Halfon.

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, also called on the government to take its time with it.

He said: “The priority is getting the apprenticeship levy fit-for-purpose, as it will need a genuine change of direction if it is to work for apprentices, business and the economy.

“Nine months out from the planned start date businesses still lack vital information — the new administration should take the time to get this right.”

The call came after FE Week revealed on Tuesday that the DfE and Mr Halfon were expected to unveil a delayed document providing more information on how apprenticeships will be funded post-levy in the next few days.

The government had been due to provide further funding information for apprenticeship reforms last month, but former skills minister Nick Boles warned delegates at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ annual conference on June 27 that there had been a “little delay”.

The government had said in April that the additional guidance would cover a number of critical areas, including provisional funding bands, which will set the maximum amount of funding that is available for each apprenticeship, and the provisional level of government support available towards the cost of apprenticeship training if you aren’t a levy paying employer.

Other expected details include the provisional level of the extra payment you can get for hiring 16 to 18-year-old apprentices, and the provisional amount that will be paid to deliver English and maths training for apprentices who need it.

The sector is also waiting for the specifics of the eligibility rules that set who you are able to spend apprenticeship funding on and where.

The announcement should also bring more information on who can provide apprenticeship training and how to set up an organisation to deliver apprenticeship training.

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