Apprenticeship Levy: Upskilling young and diverse talent must be a priority
by Rob Bright
The egregious misuse of the Apprenticeship Levy to fund qualifications for top level executives at the expense of training up grassroots talent will impact future generations. Organisations must act now to ensure tomorrow’s leaders get the training opportunities they deserve.
With the skills shortage continuing to impact almost all industries across the UK, the effectiveness of the Apprenticeship Levy has rightly been brought into question.
Not only has the number of young people starting apprenticeships dropped by more than 100,000, but its funding has been used to finance MBAs for top executives. This could have a detrimental impact on the development of young talent.
Apprenticeships have been the foundation of on-the-job training in the UK for many years, serving as a valuable option for school and college graduates whose skills or preferences aren’t aligned with academia.
his route offers individuals the opportunity to develop their skills in a real-world environment while being able to earn money alongside their training. Particularly for those starting out in practical roles, apprenticeships are a priceless way to establish a strong foundation in a new career that will benefit them for years to come.
By allowing employers to continue diverting funds from the intended recipients, the government is failing the next generation of workers.
With this in mind, the UK government’s failure to protect Apprenticeship Levy funding for those who need it most is cause for major concern.
The Levy’s purpose, of course, was to help fund apprenticeships for entry-level talent to boost the country’s skills base and offer opportunities to those who need them most. It’s come to light, however, that the levy isn’t being used as intended and is actually being used to finance MBAs for firms’ top executives.
In fact, an investigation by The Independent into the misuse of the Levy revealed that a staggering £1bn worth of public money had been used to fund masters courses for individuals who are already well-established in their careers.
Closing the skills gap
It goes without saying that all training and upskilling should be encouraged, but not at the expense of apprenticeships for grassroots talent, which can offer so many individuals a chance to embark on a new career and, in turn, help resolve the skills shortage impacting so many industries.
Unfortunately, company executives understand how the system works and are already educated in how to use and benefit from it.
As a result, these privileged few are directly taking opportunities away from the huge number of individuals who are so often overlooked and likely unaware of the types of opportunities available, such as young people, diverse talent, and older workers looking to retrain.
By allowing employers to continue diverting funds from the intended recipients, the government is failing the next generation of workers. The move will not only leave young and overlooked talent with even fewer career options, but also further exacerbate the UK’s current recruitment crisis.
This is significant, given that 57% of businesses report they are still struggling to-fill vacancies.
Growing entry-level talent
With more young people entering the workforce every single day, entry-level talent has huge potential to alleviate the recruitment crisis. By investing in the development of these individuals, we can help bridge the skills gap while also increasing the number of individuals contributing to the UK economy.
One of the most impactful ways we can address the skills shortages is by increasing the participation of our employees in valuable training.
It is clear that a firmer focus on training for entry-level talent is needed. The Apprenticeship Levy isn’t the only possible solution, however. Instead, businesses and the government alike should all be taking a more holistic approach to growing talent.
Paid apprenticeships are a fantastic way for young employees to quickly learn new, specialised skills, but there are a huge number of other ways to develop talent, and they don’t all require formal qualifications.
Work experience offers employees new to an industry valuable insight into the day-to-day processes and skills required for a particular role with limited risk for the employer.
Similarly, embedding constant, on-the-job learning as part of a business’ culture can be extremely beneficial to new and existing employees, especially in fast-paced or high-risk industries where processes and technology are constantly evolving.
Regular and consistent ‘micro-learning’ sessions that can be fitted in alongside an employee’s day-to-day role in the flow of work are a great way to achieve this whilst minimising disruption to productivity.
This type of bite-sized learning is particularly effective amongst younger workers who are used to consuming information in short bursts. Plus, thanks to technology, it can be rolled out among a whole workforce without the need for huge time investments from the HR team.
As business leaders, one of the most impactful ways we can address the skills shortages is by increasing the participation of our employees in valuable training. When implemented effectively, this approach will lead to the creation of skilled, productive, and motivated workforces, both on a company and national level.