Before the Annual Apprenticeship Conference (AAC), FE Week asked delegates for their views on the government’s apprenticeship reforms.

More than 210 representatives from colleges, independent training providers, local authorities, employer providers, awarding organisations and others responded to the survey, which asked for their views on issues such as quality, the impact of the levy and how it might apply to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

These showed a surprising lack of consensus on some of the key areas of the apprenticeship reforms, particularly around the introduction of the levy, reflecting the levels of uncertainty in the sector over the potential impact of the reforms.

Only about 50 per cent thought that funding apprenticeships though a large employer levy was a good idea, despite the fact that it is estimated that it will bring in around £2.5bn to the sector.

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Survey respondents were also evenly divided in their views on the impact of the levy on the quality of apprenticeships, which again indicated the many unanswered questions that people have about it. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents said they thought the levy would make those companies that pay it care more quality, as it would be their money they were spending.

In terms of the impact on employers’ spending on training, a little over half — 56 per cent — of respondents also believed that employers would simply switch over their existing training budget and use the levy money instead.

However, there was much more consensus among survey respondents in other areas of the reforms, although this agreement also reflected the high levels of uncertainty surrounding them.

Concern about the quality of apprenticeships was high, with almost 90 per cent saying they thought it would suffer in the rush to meet the government’s 3m target.

A similar proportion — 86 per cent — of respondents expressed concern over the funding of apprenticeship provision for SMEs, who won’t pay the levy. Given that this is one of the key details of the levy system yet to be worked out — and that the vast majority of apprenticeships are currently in SMEs — such high levels of concern are to be expected.

AAC VOX POPS — Opportunity or threat? How do feel about the apprenticeship reforms?

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