Hundreds of small businesses utilise removal of apprenticeship cap

Some SMEs have recruited over 50 apprentices since April 2023 policy change

Some SMEs have recruited over 50 apprentices since April 2023 policy change

Exclusive

More than 250 small and medium-sized employers have already recruited over 10 apprentices since the government scrapped a cap on starts last year.

SMEs were restricted to a maximum of ten apprenticeship starts from 2020 until April 3, 2023.

Ministers finally decided to abolish the cap after consecutive resets amid warnings from FE Week and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers that non-levy paying businesses were being forced to turn apprentices away after hitting the limit.

Skills minister Robert Halfon has now revealed, in answer to a parliamentary question from Grahame Morris MP, that 256 non-levy payers have recruited 11 or more apprentices since the policy change came into force 10 months ago.

The majority – 214 – hired between 11 and 19 apprentices, while 33 had starts of between 20 and 29.

Six other SMEs managed to enrol between 30 and 39 apprentices, another recruited between 40 and 49, and two managed to enlist over 50.

Number of starts since April 2023 (grouped)Number of non-levy employer accounts
11-19214
20-2933
30-396
40-491
50+2
Source: Department for Education

The figures come at the start 17th annual National Apprenticeship Week.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It’s great to see so many non-levy payers taking on larger numbers of apprentices since the cap was lifted, bringing in lots of new talent for them to nurture.”

However, McKenzie warned that taking on numerous apprentices is still financially out of reach for most small businesses. She called for the current £1,000 bonus for hiring an under-19 apprentice to be increased to £3,000 for small businesses and expanded to cover under-25s.

The SME cap was originally introduced in January 2020 with a limit of three new apprenticeship starts, before it was lifted to ten in summer 2020.

Small businesses that do not pay the apprenticeship levy receive 95 per cent of training costs from the apprenticeship budget, funded by levy paying businesses.

The rationale of the cap had been that it would help prevent the overall apprenticeships budget from being overspent.

Simon Ashworth, AELP director of policy, said it was “positive that the removal of cap of ten non-levy starts cap has enabled more employers to access the benefits we know that apprenticeships bring”.

However, he warned that although the changes have helped, the government still hasn’t “addressed the wider barrier of employer engagement and accessing opportunities in the first place”.

“It is critical to get the apprenticeship service system working more effectively, for SMEs including by giving providers more autonomy”, Ashworth said, adding that the current “expert” provider pilot has the potential to support this change.

Latest education roles from

Student Engagement and Enrichment Lead

Student Engagement and Enrichment Lead

Bournemouth and Poole College

Tutorial Learning Mentor

Tutorial Learning Mentor

Barnsley College

School Liaison Admissions Tutor

School Liaison Admissions Tutor

Riverside College

Study Coach

Study Coach

Heart of Yorkshire Education Group

Lecturer in Maths

Lecturer in Maths

Heart of Yorkshire Education Group

Apprentice Development Leader

Apprentice Development Leader

GP Strategies

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Why we’re backing our UK skills ‘Olympians’ (and why you should too)

This August, teams from over 200 nations will gather to compete in the sticky heat of the Paris summer...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

Is your organisation prepared for a major incident?

We live in an unpredictable world where an unforeseen incident or environmental event could disrupt a Further Education (FE)...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

A new chapter in education protection!

Gallagher is a specialist in the Further Education sector, working with over 75% of Further Education colleges in the...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

Pearson is planting the seed for sustainability talent with new HTQ

Sustainability is rapidly becoming a key organisational goal for many businesses looking to make a difference in society, the...

Advertorial

More from this theme

Apprenticeships, Election 2024

Election 2024: Apprenticeships top of education priority list

But poll suggests support for Conservative and Labour plans for apprenticeships have limited backing

Josh Mellor
Apprenticeships, Election 2024

Blueprint for a phased ‘flex and match’ skills levy unveiled

L&W plan would allow gradual levy flex while protecting the apprenticeship budget in real terms

Billy Camden
Apprenticeships, Ofsted

‘Outstanding’ for Dyson’s axed degree apprenticeships

Dyson says it would prefer to pay £250,000 per student to avoid the "burden" of degree apprenticeship paperwork

Josh Mellor
Apprenticeships, Election 2024

Conservatives pledge 100,000 apprenticeship boost

Pledge comes amid another "crackdown" on "rip-off" university degrees

Shane Chowen

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Comments

  1. Albert Wright

    Congratulations to FE Week and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and FSB for highlighting the potential for some SME’s to take on more than 10 apprentices.

  2. Dean Phillips

    Unfortunately a lot (not all) businesses use the scheme for cheap labour and a government subsidy.
    I was on an apprenticeship with SE trains at the age of 56, blatantly obvious only for them to get £2k from the government.
    Good on those who don’t abuse it and give youngsters a fair chance.