A critical new report on apprenticeship funding from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has been strongly challenged by Greater Manchester’s largest apprenticeship training provider, The Skills Company, part of the not-for-profit Manchester Growth Company.

The IFS report claims that the Government’s flagship plan to support three million new apprenticeships by 2020, to be funded by the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 could result in a waste of public money, and that lower level training will be ‘branded’ as apprenticeships just so that employers can claim back their Levy contributions.  The report also warns that unrealistic targets will result in the quality of apprenticeships suffering.

The IFS says that although there may be a strong case for expanding apprenticeships, the Government has failed to make it, and has made ‘cavalier’ claims about the benefits of apprenticeships.

But the IFS position has been challenged by Jayne Worthington, Managing Director of Manchester based apprenticeship training provider, The Skills Company.  Jayne said:  “The planned growth in apprenticeships is absolutely essential if the UK economy is to respond to the challenges it faces.  The UK has really serious skills problems, and we need to raise the skill levels of the workforce to promote economic growth, and improve productivity, which lags behind many of our competitors, both in Europe and worldwide.”

“The quality of apprenticeships has never been higher, and the new standards-based apprenticeships will ensure that apprentices will need to be able demonstrate their competence through rigorous, independent assessment designed in conjunction with employers.  The newly established Institute for Apprenticeships will also have a key role in ensuring that the apprenticeship programme meets the needs of employers, and that quality standards are upheld.”

“Study after study has clearly demonstrated that apprenticeships, if properly delivered, have enormous benefits both for the apprentice and the employer.  Employing apprentices can reduce recruitment costs, and make it possible for employers to train recruits in their own ways of working, whilst still meeting rigorously applied national standards of competence.  Over 89% of apprentices are happy with the quality of their training, and over 82% of employers are satisfied with the apprenticeship programme, with over two thirds of apprentice employers stating that employing apprentices has improved their productivity.”

“We’re already working with many businesses to plan their strategy on where to invest their levy contributions, looking at talent and workforce development needs and planning apprenticeship recruitment and training in line with this.  Businesses that take this step will definitely be ready for the levy and will be well positioned to maximise the investment potential and ultimate return.”