Businesses will have greater power to shape skills training to meet their needs as part of a shake-up of the apprenticeships system, Staffordshire employers were told at a conference.
The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Skills Staffordshire invited employers from across the region to an event in Stafford giving them up-to-date information on the apprenticeship levy, which will be introduced next year.
John Myers, head of employer and delivery services at the Skills Funding Agency, said the changes, which support the Government’s aim of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020, would ‘transfer the power’ to employers by giving them control over apprenticeship funding, empowering them to get what they needed from training providers. He told the audience of 100 representatives from employers and training organisations: “It is your money and you should be demanding the best value and best quality in apprenticeship training.”
The conference was chaired by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership chairman David Frost, who stressed the importance of apprenticeships gaining a reputation for top-quality training and becoming ‘a gold standard route into employment’. Mr Frost said: “If people see something that is a low-value, low-level qualification they won’t take it on board.
“An apprenticeship has to be a high standard, good programme of training, and that encourages me about the potential of the new system. “If we are going to boost the economy it is really critical that we embrace the apprenticeships agenda.” He also called for more work with secondary schools to inform pupils about the wide range of apprenticeship options available to them.
The Apprenticeship Levy will be introduced in April 2017, and will apply to firms with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million, meaning that less than two per cent of UK employers will be liable for the levy. The five per cent levy, topped up with a contribution from the Skills Funding Agency, will be returned to the employer in a digital voucher account to be spent on apprenticeships, either for new recruits, or to improve the skills of existing staff. Smaller employers will continue to receive Government funding to support apprenticeships.
The Government is set to announce further details about the changes in apprenticeships during 2016, and another meeting is planned to keep local employers up to date with the changes.
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