Government consults on Apprentice Grant and Levy Scheme: your chance to help get it right

It is vital that digital employers, large and small, not only respond to the consultation survey on the new grant and levy proposals, but also e-mail their wider views to the consultation e-mail address, [email protected] , copied to the trade association and professional body of their choice and to their local MP.  I have heard many concerns about the Apprentice Grant and Levy Scheme. When it was first launched and I gave it a very qualified welcome and later blogged on the need to make it fit for purpose. The middle of August is not be the best time to finally announce a consultation on the practical implementation of a programme that is critical to the future supply of digital skills in the UK. More-over the consultation topics and questions asked do not appear to relate the main concerns of employers and the deadline for responding to the survey is short, September 5th. I have a very real concern that ministers have demanded a review and their officials are going through the motions.

For those who do not have time to try to understand the documentation that accompanies the consultation questionnaire, I recommend reading the calls for change from Tech UK and from the Federation of Small Business and the guidance produced by Tech UK . Then read their respective welcomes for the “concessions” in the consultation. Mike Cherry of the FSB is even more cautious in his welcome  than Charlotte Holloway of Tech UK, Tech UK appears to welcome “concessions”, e.g. regarding the training of the existing workforce, that do not appear to be in the consultation  –   unless the tentative proposals  to allow employers to set up their own apprenticeship programmes, as opposed to contracting out, are expected to pen the way to going very much further than funding agency officials appear to currently envisage.

Then try taking the survey – you can discard the result when you get to the end. It helps put the verbiage into context. Not think how officials will use the answers you have given. Discard the answers and complete it again. Also think of the consequences if neither you nor your organisation make your views known.

Nowhere is there anything on the key question on how to organise or get funding for apprenticeships which will give your staff the evolving mix of industry recognised qualifications and certifications that your customers or regulators will expect them to have.

Nowhere is there anything on funding the mot expensive part of any genuine apprenticeships – the organisation and supervision of structured work experience (mine back in 1968 – 9, as the sole graduate trainee in STC Microwave and Line, was to produce a “project control” system for the IT department. It was then gleefully subjected to destruction testing by those it was supposed to “control”. My “passing out” was almost literal, when all who had failed to break it bought me a drink in Basildon’s main pub).

In July the Tech Partnership organised a major event to bring players together to look at graduate level apprenticeships and launch its new Digital Apprenticeships Board. It is not at all easy to see how these  will fit with the Apprentice Grant and Levy system as currently envisaged.

I strongly suspect that ministers are serious about the need for the new system to be employer driven. But they need employers to make their views known load and clear. You have barely three weeks.  

P.S. Why is it so important you respond?

After all hardly any of you take on trainees, let alone apprentices. Most of you, like most Digital employers rely on your staff acquiring skills by osmosis, hiring those who claim to have done the job for some-one else, (usually without checking their provenance), importing supposedly skilled staff from the EU, or contracting off-shore.

The answer is Brexit. “The people have spoken – the bastards.”  The pressure from the existing workforce and indigenous population for you to train them and their children rather than rely on importing talent or exporting jobs is growing. It is much better to harness it constructively with train for jobs and not just jobs for training administrators.