A leading vocational education adviser for the government has called on thee government to fund apprenticeship growth by making all employers pay a levy.
The author of the 2011 review of vocational education, Professor Lady Alison Wolf, outlined plans in a new report despite commitments in the Conservative manifesto about funding extra starts by switching classroom-based further education funding and recycling savings from the welfare budget.
A 26-page report, entitled Fixing a Broken Training system: The case for an apprenticeship levy, calls for businesses, including those not employing an apprentice, to pay into a centralised pot of cash as she said rebuilding the programme required long term funding, instead of “bits of cash patched together by fiddling with departmental budgets.”
The welfare savings proposed in the Conservative manifesto was based on a “presumed but unsecured fall in current benefit payments” claimed Professor Wolf in the report. She also said that the transfer of funding from classroom-based to apprenticeships had “already started” and would not be enough.
The government plans have changed recently to include revenue from visa charges and bank fines would help pay for apprenticeships. However Professor Wolf dismissed them, saying that the visa charge would need to be put into context due to the “reiterated commitments to reduce immigration further”. The bank fines claims were also dismissed by saying: “It is quite extraordinary that a government proposes to rest a key part of its productivity policy (which apprenticeship is) on the assumption that bankers will go on breaking the law and falling liable to huge fines on an annual basis.”
Launching the report, Professor Wolf said: “Without new funds, Prime Minister David Cameron’s talk of improving apprenticeship quality while also having 3m new apprenticeships by 2020 is self-deception, at best.
“Under current budgets it simply cannot be done. To rebuild apprenticeship as a robust and credible institution for the long-term it needs a secure funding source. A small but hypothecated payroll levy on businesses is the only simple and robust way to do this”
“It will transform incentives, restore the employer-apprentice contract as the core of the system, and fund apprenticeship growth and improvement.”
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting 3m quality apprenticeships this Parliament.
“We have already given employers control over designing quality apprenticeships and this report is a valuable contribution to the debate which we’ll review with interest.”
The report comes just after Professor Wolf said government plans to create 3m apprenticeship starts by 2020 were “largely unfunded” and warned further education could “vanish into history” to foot the bill.