Levy-paying companies that fail to use their funds within two years will lose access to their contributions on a rolling month-by-month basis from next May. Unused funds will go to the Treasury and have been earmarked to help pay for apprenticeships for non-levy paying companies.

Andy Smyth, Tui’s early talent and apprenticeships manager, predicted a “flurry of activity” as companies looked to avoid losing funds. But he warned that firms should focus past May rather than attempt to implement a scheme before the first deadline.

“Funds not spent by May will roll back to the Treasury, but it’s too late [to set up a scheme by then]. You can’t do anything fast enough.

“We need to caution against a knee-jerk reaction. There will be a flurry of activity, but it won’t save those funds. It will save future funds if companies start now.”

Smyth was speaking at a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast on recruitment, training and retention, during which the 2019 edition of careers publication Take Off in Travel was unveiled.

He said there had been “some learning and maturing of thinking”, as companies understood a proper apprenticeship strategy was required to unlock and use levy funds. But he called for “greater intervention” from government to educate companies on how to properly implement a scheme.

Vicki Wolf, Abta’s education partnerships manager, said she was encouraged by an increase in schemes offered by members in areas such as marketing, IT, finance and management, with apprenticeships increasingly used to develop and retain staff as well as train new recruits.