Revealed: DfE finds small employers now account for just 27% of apprenticeship starts



The Department for Education has this morning published “analysis looking at the impact of the introduction of the apprenticeship levy on employers engaging with apprenticeships”.

The analysts found: “Apprenticeship starts have become more concentrated in large employers, since the introduction of the levy.

“Apprenticeship starts were most likely to occur in large employers (those with 250 or more employees) at 61 percent of all starts in 2018/19; however, this proportion rose from 46 percent of all apprenticeship starts in 2016/17.

“Small (0-49) employers accounted for 27 percent of apprenticeship starts in 2018/19, falling from 37 percent in 2016/17.”

The DfE first published this “experimental” data on “apprenticeships in England by industry sector” (click here) in October 2018, but with no data from after the levy was introduced for starts in May 2017.

The plan had been to publish more up-to-date data in October 2019, but this was delayed until today, in order to “include data from the 2018 to 2019 academic year”.

Today’s data follows repeated warnings from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers that levy shortages meant small to medium enterprises were being cut out of apprenticeship funding.

In January, new boss of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, Jennifer Coupland, called for an additional £750 million to prop-up small business apprenticeships.

When making her plea she said the levy has led to small businesses cutting their training by ten per cent, while levy-payers have increased theirs by 20 per cent.

She added that the £750 million would cover the cost for about 85,000 apprenticeships which non-levy payers cannot fund.

But the Treasury has poured cold water on hopes for new funding, after they confirmed that yesterday’s budget offers no extra cash for the programmes.

There is still optimism, however, that more funding will be made available in this year’s spending review.



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  1. Philip Gorst

    Finance director to commercial manager of large multi-national:

    ‘We are paying £600k a month into the levy pot. If we don’t spend it in two years it is taken from us. What are you doing about it’?

    ‘Well, it just so happens that a bunch of our up and coming managers are in desperate need for further development, despite the fact that they have to have degrees in business related subjects as part of our recruitment and selection process, so they are all going on MBA apprenticeships. They only have to be absent from work one day a week, so that won’t impact upon the business’.

    ‘Mmmm, I though the apprenticeship programme was supposed to suit all levels of qualification, and that the excess funds were going to help smaller businesses’.

    ‘Er, yes, but do you want this levy money spent, or not?’

    ‘Good point’.