A nationwide slump in the number of new apprentices since the introduction of a levy on bigger companies should be seen as a positive sign, according to the UK’s biggest travel firm Tui.
Department for Education figures for May to June this year have shown just 43,600 new apprenticeships were created in England compared to 113,000 in the same period the previous year. No figures were given specifically for the travel sector.
In April the government started collecting an apprenticeship levy from employers with wage bills of £3 million and more equating to 0.5% of their annual outlay on salaries with the money ring fenced used to create three million more apprentices by 2020.
The initial slump in numbers led to calls for reform of the levy, but Tui UK and Ireland early talent and apprenticeships manager Andy Smyth disagreed.
“There was always going to be a complete and utter stop in enrolment,” he told an Abta apprenticeships seminar last week. “I for one am pleased because a lot of reasons for the drop are good reasons.
“If it had not have happened I would have been quite worried right now because it would have meant people were being reckless. What this shows is employers are actually taking their time.”
Smyth said the government’s new apprenticeships scheme is seeking to increase both the quality of apprenticeships and the level of involvement in training and development by employers.
“This is about the right programme for the right purpose. The main objective is to think about where your businesses’ skills needs are,” he said.
Because firms have a two year limit during which they must spend the money allocated to them from the levy there was a fear they would not focus on quality or need but on recruiting apprentices just to spend their allocation.
Annette Allmark, director of strategy policy at sector skills body People 1st, said a survey has found since the levy came in the number of employers who describe themselves as investing heavily in apprenticeships has gone up from 29% to 60%.
But she said firms are at different stages of implementing new training schemes with a third saying they have made “some progress” and just over a quarter saying they have just started.
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