The Apprentice Levy Scheme

Earlier this year I spent time looking into the new UK Apprentice Levy scheme, there is plenty of information out there on whether you need to pay the levy and how this will be collected, along with how to register to access funding.

Like many small businesses (those with payroll bills of <£3m), across the UK, we are not required to contribute this year but are able to access the funding and over the summer we registered our newest apprentice, and transferred our existing apprentice to the new scheme.

Surprisingly it has been a very painless process, I believe we were fortunate in that we use Coventry & Warwickshire Training (CWT) as our chosen training provider and they have been very pro-active in ensuring that the process is as simple as possible.  CWT provided early one to one sessions explaining the changes and how they envisioned the apprenticeships would operate and our designated contacts have been with us through the journey.  We have received updates, notifications and advice on our legal rights and responsibilities as well as invitations to information sharing meetings with other employers.

As a small employer (pay bill <£3m and fewer than 50 employees) registered apprentices between the ages of 16 & 18 have their apprenticeship training fully funded and we are entitled to claim an incentive in the form of a government grant for registering them.  Note that we have to submit a claim for the incentive which is payable in two instalments, the first which can be claimed 90 days after the date of registration and the second which is claimed after 365 days and subject to set milestones being reached.  For our apprentice over 18 years we are only required to contribute 10% of the fees to attract a government subsidy for the remaining 90% .  For small employers this is a very cost effective way of training your new recruits.

As a professional practice previously we have recruited one or two trainees each year and these are usually graduates or post A-Level schools leavers, however with the new levy I can see school leavers post GCSE’s at age 16 becoming more appealing to employers as they will attract potentially two or three years of incentives which could be used towards additional skills training.

An important change to the apprenticeships, is that courses run for 15 months being an agreed day release every week for a year and then a three month window during which a portfolio has to be prepared and submitted before the apprentice will have an interview covering the skills they have learnt and how these have been applied in the workplace.  As an employer this shall be interesting as we have previously worked to a “school timetable” model where our apprentices have day release during local authority term time to attend courses, they will now be at the training centre for one day every week except for Christmas & Easter.  This means that rather than a two year AAT apprenticeship this will now be two and a half years.

Of course it is still possible to train our apprentices outside the new levy scheme. There are training providers offering each level of the AAT training over one year, but these will not attract any subsidy or funding so it is a decision between whether the additional 3 months at each level is a problem as it delays the next steps; or a bonus as your apprentice is gaining a few more months experience in their role and applying the knowledge gained from their external courses.

Our apprentices are very much the “Guinea pigs” for this new scheme and only time will tell if it will provide the more robust rounded apprentices that it so hopes for, the principles are sound and as an employer the linkage between the classroom studies and the practicalities of the everyday job sound sensible. The portfolio preparation and interview at each level evidences that the training is appropriate and relevant which can only be a good thing, however for AAT students wishing to pursue a professional accountancy qualification with either the ICAEW or ACCA it remains to be seen how their training bodies will respond to this delay in students completing their AAT and registering to continue their training.

For more details on the Apprentice Levy or if you have any questions please email Deborah Austin.