Apprenticeship levy: business tax or a chance to improve?

Anyone who’s ever been involved in learning will know that change is a constant feature, from employers evolving their training programmes to deliver the skills they’ll need, to education providers trying to be one step ahead, offering courses that will attract new learners.

James Hill, strategic partnerships manager Tribal Group

James Hill, strategic partnerships manager
Tribal Group

Next April, however, sees possibly the biggest change of them all: the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, a 0.5 per cent contribution all firms with an annual payroll greater than £3 million will need to pay to into. By requiring firms to divert money into a digital account that can only be claimed back if they buy accredited learning from training providers, its ambition is simple – getting greater numbers of people into apprenticeships than ever before.

This truly is the culmination of a gradual return to favour of apprenticeship learning. As university has become increasingly more expensive and as employers have begun to question the value of higher education in making their employees work-ready, entrants to the workplace really do have a new “learn as you earn” option available to them.

But perhaps the greatest reason to applaud the return of apprenticeships is the fact that in emerging once more, they are transitioning from traditional framework qualifications to become employer-led standards.

For years, employers have felt dispossessed and disenchanted with the learning they were presented with. Learning was created by other bodies and imposed on them. Now this is changing. Employers are setting the standards they want the next generation to learn, so they can make an immediate difference in their organisations. These really are apprenticeships for the 21st century.

As with all change, there are challenges too. Organisations will need to manage their training reporting effectively; they’ll need to find efficiencies to make their training support go further. Recent research by CBI/Pearson found that 45 per cent of organisations are concerned about the impact training costs will have on their margins. More than ever businesses will need to know what value apprentices and trainees are adding to their organisation.

In addition, organisations may look to convert their existing training programmes into apprenticeships to benefit from the levy. Some organisations may wish to register as training providers and directly access government funding. This will require businesses literally learning how to become a training provider – everything from managing their learner and funding data, to doing the things they might never have been aware of, such as preparing for external audits.

These are all things we at Tribal have solutions for. Our software can significantly reduce the time and expense involved in manual processes, and we have a team of training, apprenticeship and funding experts who can help with the management and delivery of training programmes. Our history has been all about adapting to change in the sector and we don’t see this stopping anytime soon.

What you have to remember though is that change doesn’t have to be tough. Some organisations have described the levy as another business tax, but we feel it is vital employers realise it’s an opportunity they should really grasp. Having accredited, relevant, employer-led standards raises the profile of work-based training, and increases value for the learner and the employer.

The reform we’re seeing isn’t just about the introduction of a levy, rather it is a fundamental shift in the way training and skills are delivered, assessed and funded. But why not get a head start by fully preparing your business for what these important changes might bring? There’s plenty of help you can access along the way and, by opening up to the power of accredited learning, you really can transform your business.

For more information and to download Tribal’s free guide to apprenticeship reform, please visit