Three students gather round laptop in a library

Two years into a long-term change project to reform the Apprenticeship landscape - and I think the sector has weathered most of the changes that are going to happen, and is coming out stronger. The initial idea was that the levy contributions of large employers would fund the co-contribution of the government for small businesses, so it was never expected to be an instant hit.

Is it working now? That depends on which part of the education sector you’re in really. The stats can be confusing. Levy-paying employers make up 49% of all apprenticeship starts, despite only 2% of the employers in England paying into it, whilst only 7% of total levy contributions have been spent, and apparently apprenticeship starts have fallen by 61%.

For me it’s opened up more opportunities for apprenticeships to be embedded into strategic plans across the board, and its helping those that haven’t previously used apprenticeships to do so.

It has encouraged employers to look at apprenticeships as a mainstream recruitment and training pathway, not just for new recruits and entry-level positions but to support people to achieve higher level skills and progress within the organisation.

It has helped to develop apprenticeships as a mainstream route for young people and adults into Higher Education, rather than the traditional “alternative route” view that has dominated how apprenticeships are perceived, and has led to a negative image over the years as having less value than a full time education. If anything, the opposite is now true. The employability and soft skills that Apprenticeships develop are in high demand from employers and will provide apprentices with a solid platform to build successful careers on, whatever the industry.

The growth of degree and higher apprenticeships at Leeds Trinity University is proof of this, and show that the apprenticeship model works for ensuring continuous professional development is available to everyone. Within two years we are now delivering nine apprenticeships to more than 100 apprentices, from Management and Business-to-Business Sales to Supply Chain Management. Without the introduction of the levy and the other reforms this wouldn’t have been possible.

If we couple the apprenticeship levy with Apprenticeship Standards, then there are more benefits. For business, there is now much more control of the entire process, the training is more bespoke and role related, and the apprentices will need to complete an End Point Assessment to qualify, meaning that they are able to evidence how well they are operating in their role.

The apprenticeship levy opens up a whole new marketplace for collaboration, innovation and streamlining. I’m excited about the growth in levy transfers from large organisations to SMEs, and the potential that this has to strengthen business partnerships and building relationships. ​

The apprenticeship levy was implemented in April 2017, with the intention of changing the way in which employers and the government fund apprenticeship training in the UK. The levy was introduced to promote apprenticeships, aligned with the government's objective of having three million people start apprenticeships between 2017 and 2020. Below, Dan Lancaster-Holmes, Relationships Manager at Leeds Trinity University, reflects on how apprenticeships have transformed in the last two years.

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