THE CHANGING APPRENTICESHIP LANDSCAPE
Changes in subjects, levels, funding, and support means that the apprenticeship landscape is shifting in interesting ways. Here we explore these changes and what they could mean for you…
THE RISE OF DEGREE APPRENTICESHIPS
One change, is an increase in the number of people undertaking higher apprenticeships (level 4 and above). Degree apprenticeships sit at the top end of higher apprenticeships and were introduced in the UK in 2015/16, providing an alternative to university.
Compared to the previous academic year, the number of people starting higher apprenticeships in 2022/23 increased by 6.2%, with level 6 and 7 apprenticeships rising by 8.2%. Interestingly, the number of people starting intermediate apprenticeships (and apprenticeships overall) has decreased.
The government attributes this change to a few factors. Firstly, the transition to employer led apprenticeship standards which resulted in apprenticeships which are longer and more rigorous, with more off the job training. Secondly the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and thirdly COVID-19 which led to a reduced number of people starting apprenticeships.
When taking a closer look at how the national picture compares to that of Liverpool City Region (LCR), the trends are similar. In 2022/23 the number of people starting apprenticeships fell from 10,070 (in 2021/22) to 9860. In terms of higher apprenticeships, Liverpool City Region, like the rest of the country, saw an increase in uptake with 3,090 started in 2022/23, the highest amount for the region in any academic year.
The increased availability and uptake in higher-level apprenticeships has disproportionately benefitted more prosperous areas. It is now more likely for people who were eligible for free school meals to go to university, than to do an apprenticeship. This is a clear indicator that apprenticeships have evolved and are no longer just low paid roles in a handful of sectors.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE LEVY?
The apprenticeship levy is one way that apprenticeships are funded. It is a charge of 0.5% of an employer’s annual pay bill if this bill is a minimum of £3 million. Employers can then choose to transfer up to 25% of their levy funds to another employer of their choosing to fund apprenticeships and training. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Skills Brokers can help levy-paying employers to facilitate levy transfers to keep apprenticeship funding within the city region.
However, the increase in higher level apprenticeships has resulted in discussions surrounding the cost of these more expensive courses. There has been suggestion that the Treasury is considering preventing levy funds being used to fund higher level apprenticeships, as well as preventing certain courses from being funded by the levy. However, this was not discussed in the Autumn 2023 Statement and has not yet been confirmed.
Despite concerns over the cost of higher apprenticeships, not all the revenue raised by the levy is being put back into apprenticeships. In the 2022/23 financial year, £3.580 billion was raised by the levy, but only £2.554 was given to the Department for Education to spend in England. £608 million was also given to the devolved nations, which is not ring-fenced for apprenticeships.
THE APPRENTICESHIP GROWTH PILOT
The apprenticeship growth pilot will be launched in Spring 2024 and will see £50 million of government funding put into a 2-year pilot to boost apprenticeships in economic growth sectors. The apprenticeship minimum wage will also be rising to £6.40 per hour and new courses will be launching including the NHS Doctor Apprenticeship and a space system engineering apprenticeship.
There are currently limited details about the pilot however the government have stated that they intend to engage with the skills sector before finalising and announcing details.
The apprenticeships English and Maths flexibilities pilot was launched in May 2023 to be trialled by 20 providers. It allows those without a pre-existing Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or statement of learning difficulties assessment (LDA), but with equivalent needs, to work towards a lower level of functional skills. The restrictions on the level of English and Maths that are required have been seen as the cause of high dropout rates, so this pilot hopes to address this problem.
The apprenticeship landscape has changed significantly over the years and new developments are on the horizon. Apprenticeships are much more diverse than they used to be, and with the wide array of support available, there is something for everyone.