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.

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  1. Kailam Dale

    A Salary cap for Pre-Apprenticeships? I’m unsure how this saves money from the skills budget? Was this money being used to pay for Apprenticeship Salaries?

  2. Darryll Bravenboer

    Back to the Future on skills
    Way back in 2006, Lord Leitch highlighted the ‘historic skills deficit’ in the UK and said ” Too many of us have little interest or appetite for improved skills. We must begin a new journey to embed a culture of learning…To reach our goals, we as a society must invest more. It is clear who will pay. It is all of us – it is the State, employers and individuals. But this will be the best investment we could ever make.” A key recommendation was to “Dramatically increase Apprenticeship volumes. Improve engagement between employers and universities. Increase co­ funded workplace degrees. Increase focus on Level 5 and above skills”. However, the report also acknowledged that employers were not, at the time, investing sufficiently in skills and that if they didn’t do this voluntarily the the government would need to legislate. As we know the voluntary approach had limited success.

    Back to 2019 and we have a successful Apprenticeship Levy that has created an obligation for large employer to invest in skills through apprenticeships. The system is (at least in theory) demand-led and employers are empowered to choose the apprenticeships that they think best meet their skills needs. But hold on, it is at this point, having struggled for years to get employers on board, that the Skills Minister wants to ‘limit demand’ from employers, to limit the extent to which they can invest in the skills they know they need to increase productivity?

    Lets hope the ‘pre-apprenticeship salary cap’ disappears down a wormhole before it wreaks havoc on a policy that has actually worked.