New levy could result in sub-standard apprenticeships

Unite, the UK’s largest union, is warning the introduction of the new apprenticeship levy could be taken off course and lead to a sharp rise in sub-standard apprenticeships.

Unite issued its warning after an influential committee of MPs also warned that the government’s flagship apprenticeship policy will not fill widening skills gaps.

From the April 6 2017 all companies with a pay bill over £3 million per annum will have to pay the levy which is 0.5 % of their employees’ pay. The government’s levy aims to meet their target of creating three million apprenticeships.

Unite has repeatedly warned that the increase in apprenticeships must not result in a fall in quality, and apprenticeships must be genuine and not used by employers as a source of cheap labour.

“Encouraging young people, their parents and teachers to consider an apprenticeship as a good career move means the ‘brand’ must be respected,” Unite said.

Unite’s principal concern is the lack of measures to prevent a rise in inferior apprenticeships as organisations try to claw back levy money. Unite welcomes the new apprenticeship standards, which should ensure all apprenticeships are of a decent quality. However, the existing discredited framework system will also remain in place until 2020.

Under the framework system there has been a proliferation of qualifications and courses in many low and semi-skilled professions. In many of these areas the training provided would not traditionally have been regarded as an apprenticeship.

Acting general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: “The government is serving up a ‘curate’s egg’. On the one hand they will be pointing to the improved quality of apprentices by highlighting the new standards regime. On the other they will be trying to meet their three million target relying on apprentices following the discredited framework system.”


Photo courtesy of Sierra.