You’re hired? New levy and tougher rules signal apprenticeship shakeup

Ministers say 3m earning and learning schemes will plug the UK skills gap but critics say new levy is yet another financial burden for businesses.

The Guardian reports that when Mohammed Choudhury was studying for A-levels, one of his teachers mentioned apprenticeships as an alternative to university. Now the 19-year old is learning computer coding and fixing software bugs for a precision manufacturing firm. Many of his friends went to university, but Choudhury has no regrets about picking a software apprenticeship.

“Your work is being put to use rather than just in the back of a cabinet,” he says of the kind of learning and earning scheme that is set to become more widespread as the government shakes up the apprenticeship system this week. “The biggest selling factor for me was the experience because I have got aunts and uncles who have a degree but were struggling to find a job and they told me how important the experience was.”

Although some feel the levy is simply another burden on top of business rates bills, auto-enrolment pensions and rising minimum wage rates. Others feel the levy and a new watchdog on apprenticeship standards were a long time coming. Now that Brexit brings the prospect of tighter immigration controls, many employers see a pressing need for all sectors to tackle skills gaps.

The government says it is already making progress with more employers offering apprenticeships and more young people signing up. 

James Selka, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), says the government deserves credit for putting alternatives to university on the map. He feels the push from Whitehall is complementing work by business to present apprenticeships as an attractive route into a career.

Accountancy firm Deloitte launched a scheme in 2011 for school leavers and in September 2016 it took on 200 new apprentices. That was twice as many as 2015. 

One of the people on the apprenticeship scheme is 20-year-old Deniz Gunes. He had offers from universities but found out about professional apprenticeships and changed plans.

“It’s the fact I can get to where I want to be in a shorter period of time,” says Gunes. “I’m still getting the education and also getting the benefits of working.”

Read more You’re hired? New levy and tougher rules signal apprenticeship shakeup

Are apprenticeships the way forward? Please send us your thoughts here or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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