by GK Strategy 16th April, 2017
3 min read

The Forgotten Number in the Apprenticeship Levy

Commentary about the Apprenticeship Levy has largely focused on the numbers; 0.5% of payroll for employers with a total pay bill of over £3 million to eventually raise approximately £3bn a year to help fund the Government’s 3 million apprenticeship starts target by 2020. However, there is one number that has not received much public attention, although it has kept most apprenticeship providers up at night trying to figure out. Namely, the requirement of any government/levy-funded apprentice to spend at least 20% of their contracted work hours on ‘off-the-job’ training – equivalent to one day a week for a two-year apprenticeship.

This requirement has proved problematic for many training providers and colleges, largely due to its ambiguity and the lack of information available on what constitutes this type of training, making it difficult to evidence it. From the guidance available by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), off-the-job training is learning outside of the apprentice’s day-to-day work duties but does not necessarily need to be outside of the employer’s premises. The training must be relevant to the apprenticeship but cannot include English and maths which is funded separately. So far, the SFA has only listed a few examples of what qualifies for this specific training (such as mentoring, online learning, and industry visits).

Importantly, this training cannot take place outside an apprentice’s paid working hours which has prompted concerns that this will deter apprentice employers who may be reluctant to pay a wage for vaguely defined training. This reality is drawn ever closer by the ambiguous conditions for evidencing that an apprentice has had this training. To date, the SFA has only specified that the provider must quantify and detail how the training was delivered, but without clear definitions, this only adds uncertainty at a time when faith in apprenticeships needs to be rock solid if the 3 million target is to be reached.

It is therefore probably unsurprising that, according to the newspaper FE Week, the SFA plans to shortly publish dedicated guidance to explain off-the-job training further. However, with the Levy already now underway, this poses a considerable risk to training providers who could fall foul of this requirement – particularly at a time when Ofsted has shown they are more than prepared to punish under-performing apprenticeship employers and providers to the point of terminating their training provision entirely. But with risk comes opportunity and the vague nature of off-the-job training presents colleges and providers with the chance to help the Government define what it means and what represents good quality.

If you’d like to learn more about the Apprenticeship Levy or how GK could help your organisation with your apprenticeship growth, please contact jack@gkstrategy.com

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