Vince Cable claims apprentice levy is a nightmare

The government’s £3bn apprenticeship levy has turned into a “bureaucratic nightmare”, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Wednesday night. “The concept is great, the theory’s fine, but the implementation has been just awful,” the former business secretary told a debate about the future of talent where ideas to close the skills gap and prepare […]

The government’s £3bn apprenticeship levy has turned into a “bureaucratic nightmare”, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Wednesday night.

“The concept is great, the theory’s fine, but the implementation has been just awful,” the former business secretary told a debate about the future of talent where ideas to close the skills gap and prepare the workforce for a high-tech future were discussed.

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Introduced last April, the levy was meant to target firms that don’t invest enough in training and be reimbursed to those that do. “But that has got lost somewhere,” Sir Vince said at the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange in association with the Evening Standard. “What happens now is the companies that do good training pay twice and the revenue don’t get to small companies that ought to be doing more.”

The controversial policy, which requires employers with an annual wage bill of £3m or more to contribute 0.5% of their staff costs, is expected to face more criticism as the education select committee probes training and apprenticeships after enrolment numbers fell.

Tim Campbell from recruiter Alexander Mann Solutions was more encouraging about the scheme. “We have seen some great initiatives where big organizations have used their levy payments to support people in their supply chain with education, particularly in the engineering sector,” he said. “We have to make sure we connect young people with the right pathways and don’t just focus on numbers.”

Panellists including Gillian Nissim, founder of workingmums.co.uk, and Jack Parsons, chief executive of the Big Youth Group, also discussed the importance of encouraging creativity in the classroom as today’s primary schoolchildren prepare for a future where nearly 65% will fill jobs that don’t exist yet, according to the World Economic Forum.

Roxanne Stockwell, the principal of Pearson College London, which staged the event, said: “It is important for people to learn how to learn. Where do they get information from when there is a data overload and much of it is absolute nonsense?”

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