Apprenticeship levy could affect number of young apprentices, training provider says

lowestoft college

lowestoft college - Credit: Archant

The youngest workers in our region must not be neglected with the advent of the new apprenticeship levy.

Anglian Water apprentice water regulations inspector Vicky Clipson. Picture: Tim George

Anglian Water apprentice water regulations inspector Vicky Clipson. Picture: Tim George - Credit: Tim George

This is the message of a training provider who believes the government should do more to encourage businesses to take on 16 to 18-year-old apprentices.

The tax on larger employers – which comes into force tomorrow – will enable firms to use funding from a national pot to finance apprenticeships or workplace training for people of any age, a change to previous guidelines.

But chief executive of Swarm Apprenticeships Chris Perry believes younger candidates could be left behind as employers opt for older apprentices with more life experience.

He said: 'My biggest worry is that we leave a huge gap in 16 to 18-year-olds with the change in funding eligibility.

'A lot of our applicants are post-graduates or people in their 20s who businesses previously could not support with apprenticeship funding, but now can. I worry we will have more older apprentices, if they can be employed at the same rate as a younger person, leaving a lot of 16 to 18-year-olds with nowhere else to go.'

He added: 'Unemployed and under-employed graduates have had it very hard for a long time and we see a lot of applications from them.'

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Ian Pease, commercial director at East Coast College, believes the levy will present more opportunities for young people by 'opening up apprenticeships to a lot more employers'.

'Where on the one hand there is a risk, on the other there is an opportunity. We are talking to more companies than we did before. Payers and non-payers of the levy are all still keen to taken on 16 to 18-year-olds.'

East Coast College – the merger of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Colleges – now has more than 1,000 apprentices on its books.

To help make them more 'work ready', Mr Pease said apprentices undertake a study programme including English and maths tuition and work experience alongside their core qualification.

The government is offering extra incentives for businesses to take on apprentices aged 16 to 18, but Mr Perry believes more could be done.

He also raised concerns about higher level apprenticeships – designed for management and other senior staff – which can also be funded by the levy but often exclude younger, less experienced candidates.