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Association urges focus on key sectors for Apprenticeship Levy

11 April 2017

A statement from the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has urged the government to be more focused and "generous" to Apprenticeship Levy participants.

Commenting on an all-party Parliamentary Education Committee report that described the levy as a "blunt instrument" that would have little impact on skills shortages, BESA director of training Tony Howard said the levy is "not a numbers game".

"The focus of the funding needs to be on key industry sectors where there is not just a skills shortage, but where that shortage is likely to have the most impact on the economy," he said.

Examples of shortages included engineering professions impacting on "key building and infrastructure projects".

Improvements to the system could include levy payers being allowed to pass on more than 10% of funds to supply chain partners.

Mr Howard said "many major contractors" had offered to invest in their supply chains and help to "grow their skills base".

"So we would urge the government not to curb their enthusiasm and be more generous with the amount they can pass on," he said.

BESA has stated it is working with employers to develop Trailblazer apprenticeships in key sectors such as installation, service and maintenance, heating and plumbing, ductwork, ventilation hygiene, refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.

It has also begun work on the development of apprenticeships at higher and degree level.

Mr Howard referred to BESA research which showed that 70% of employers said productivity levels had improved through taking on apprentices.

Eighty three per cent of apprentices also said their career prospects had improved as a result of their apprenticeships.

"Every £1 of taxpayers' money invested in apprenticeships at levels 2 and 3 pays back between £26 and £28 in long-term economic benefits," he said.

"The levy system is new and it will take employers some time to get to grips with it, but it will play a vital role in addressing skills shortages.

"However, it depends on employers engaging with the process to ensure the training being developed is fit for purpose and meets their needs - particularly in technical professions," said Mr Howard.

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