Apprenticeship levy is being spent on ‘false apprenticeships’, according to thinktank report

03 January 2020

A report published by EDSK, an independent thinktank, has suggested that half of apprenticeship courses that have started since the introduction of the levy back in April 2017 are ‘fake’.

Up to £1.2 billion has been spent by employers and universities who are “inappropriately labelling” training courses as apprenticeships in order to gain access to the funds of the levy “when they are nothing of the sort”.  Tom Richmond, director of EDSK, said:

“Instead of supporting the government’s efforts to improve technical education for young people, the evidence shows that some employers and universities are abusing the levy by rebadging existing training courses and degrees as ‘apprenticeships’ for their own financial gain.”

 He also commented that the apprenticeship levy had become a “farce”.

The report, written by Mr. Richmond, identified three different types of ‘fake apprenticeship.’ It suggested that £235 million of levy funding had been spent on what it deemed as low-skilled and generic roles which did not require training, such as working in a shop, serving behind a bar or playing football. A further £551 million was spent on management training and professional development courses, e.g. retail management. The third category related to bachelor’s degrees and master’s level programmes and therefore would be classed as advanced and involve highly technical training - they would be worlds apart from the junior and entry level courses that the levy was intended to fund. There was no concrete spending figure provided for the third type of ‘fake apprenticeship’ included in the report.

The study also found that the most frequent use of apprenticeship funding was for “team leader/supervisor” training, which accounted for nearly one in ten of apprenticeships. This suggests, again, that a substantial number of courses are being aimed at more experienced staff and alludes to the notion that the levy is not being utilised correctly.

Statistics show that since the levy’s introduction, the proportion of younger people embarking on apprenticeships has reduced, particularly at entry-level, but conversely, there has been a rise in the number of existing adult employees who have been labelled as apprentices since April 2017.

The main observation of the report is that the levy is not being spent to enable younger or more inexperienced individuals to progress within the working world but that it is being used to fund training that would have happened with or without public funding and that needed to take place regardless, or that it is being used to enhance skills of more senior staff members.


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