From May, unspent levy allocations in employers’ accounts – including councils’ – started being withdrawn and redirected nationally to the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s non-levy apprenticeship pot.
In a letter to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, LGA Chairman Lord Porter emphasised that many councils want to use their levy funds to boost vital skills and professions – but have been unable to so within the last two years.
This is because standards for new apprenticeships, in areas such as social work and planning, have only just been approved, while others – such as for adult care, early years, and building control – are still in development.
“Employers support the Government’s commitment to create more apprenticeships, as skills development is so vital for individuals, employers and the national and local economy,” wrote Lord Porter.
“Unfortunately, they continue to face considerable barriers to spending their levy funds, despite their best efforts and recent welcome changes.”
The letter, co-signed by business experts, industry leaders and combined authorities, also called for changes to the apprenticeship programme aimed at boosting the number of apprentices to help drive local economic growth, and at supporting disadvantaged communities.
Proposals include aligning apprenticeship activity in an area to local skills strategies and emerging local industrial strategies and sector deals; and flexibility for employers to work with local partners to decide how they spend their levy and any unspent levy funds to meet local economic priorities.
The influential Commons’ Public Accounts Committee has also raised concerns about the apprenticeships programme, including how it will address the UK’s poor productivity levels; meet the needs of people with lower skills and from disadvantaged communities and under-represented groups; and support small employers.