Apprenticeship Levy threatens to penalise employers who already provide upskilling to workforce
UK-wide target of three million apprenticeships a year unrealistic and will undermine quality and number of genuine placements
January 31st: Speaking the day after his union organised a conference focussing on the needs of the Manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland, Unite deputy Regional Secretary, Jackie Pollock, warned that proposals to extend the Apprenticeship Levy here threatened to undermine the status and quality of local apprenticeships.
“Unite has warned repeatedly that the number and quality of vocational training offered to young people here has fallen substantially. Over the last years we have seen a move away from employer-led training to that provided by, and in the interests of, further education providers. The result has been a significant deterioration in the quality of apprenticeships, a growing mismatch between supply and demand of skills in the labour market, and a dramatic deterioration in the pay and conditions of apprentices.
“Before the recent crisis of the devolved institutions, proposals were raised by the Executive for the Apprenticeship Levy to be extended to Northern Ireland. This threatens to further undermine skills provision.
“We fear that employers who currently provide apprenticeships will end this provision in order to avoid being forced to pay twice through the Apprenticeship Levy. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that money raised through the Levy will be ring-fenced for skills provision, and even if there was such a commitment, we could not be confident that the money raised would go directly to apprenticeships.
“The goal set by the Tory government of three million apprenticeships a year, funded by the Apprenticeship Levy is entirely unrealistic. Moves to extend this initiative to Northern Ireland are driven more by the desire to be seen to deliver this output than whether it fits our needs. Indeed, there is a growing recognition that such an unrealistic target will result in any vocational qualification being deemed to be an ‘apprenticeship’ – a fear raised today by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
“Many employers share these concerns. Northern Ireland is in real danger of losing the skills necessary to underpin our manufacturing and construction in future years”, Mr Pollock ended.