Sandy Lindsay MBE, NWBLT’s Skills Lead, has signed a letter to The Times along with a number of business organisations led by Jasmine Whitbread, CEO at London First, calling for the promised review of the Apprentice Levy.  Sandy is the Founder and Chair of Tangerine and Director of the Juice Academy which provides social media apprenticeships.

The full letter is set out below:-

“Last autumn, the Prime Minister committed to creating a modern Industrial Strategy. In a post-Brexit world, a highly motivated and productive workforce will be key to maintaining economic growth. Having a strong apprenticeship system is a vital part of that.

The recent government figures showing that the number of people starting an apprenticeship continues to fall is a stark reminder that the system is not working. Government is on course to fall woefully short of its target of three million apprentices starting by 2020. Employers are not seeing a return on their apprenticeship levy investment. Most importantly, young people – the future of UK PLC – are not getting the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

To meet the government’s target of 3 million new apprentices about 66,000 new apprenticeships need to start every month between now and May 2020. This figure has only been hit once since the introduction of the levy, with most months starts falling well below 30,000. According to the government’s own figures there were only around 25,000 starts this April.

This is despite employers having a big appetite for apprentices. Organisations from across the UK, big and small and in both the public and private sectors, know that highly trained staff can transform their businesses.

The reputation of apprenticeships among both employers and employees is under threat. Despite a great deal of effort to make it work, employers find the rules too rigid and the process for setting apprenticeships up too long and complex. An opportunity to upskill our workforce, paid for by employers, is being lost.

The overwhelming evidence from employers is that the apprenticeship system itself is holding back the numbers of new apprentices. The Chancellor promised in last year’s Budget to keep the apprenticeship levy system under review. This review is now long overdue and needed more urgently than ever.

There are two key areas where action now will go a long way to meeting our concerns. First, the Institute of Apprenticeships must be properly resourced so that apprenticeship standards are designed and approved much more quickly. Secondly, employers should be able to spend their levy contribution more flexibly, such as directly contributing to apprenticeship wage costs or being able to spend a greater proportion through their supply chain

We urge the government to work with us to review and improve the system. Employers want to take on apprentices, but the status quo is not acceptable. Only by working together can we make apprenticeships work for everyone.”