Apprenticeships are a key part of the solution to the skills gap which is increasingly impacting the workplace and facilities management profession, including at senior levels.
We are long-time advocates of the opportunities that employment-based education can offer and its vital role, alongside other training and development methods, in supporting excellence and improving productivity in the workplace. New Trailblazer apprenticeships were introduced in England in 2013, putting employers at their centre to ensure that they provide learners with the skills and knowledge needed by industry now and in the future.
IWFM were delighted to provide our expertise and commitment to these new pathways, working with employers and academic institutions to create the standards, qualifications and assessments which underpin the Facilities Management apprenticeships (see link below). We have supported the development of three apprenticeship standards to date, with a fourth being near completion.
The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in 2017 with the aim of creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020. Under the scheme all employers with an annual salary bill of over £3 million pay 0.5% of their salary total into a central fund (regardless of whether they employ apprentices) which is open to any business that wants to offer in-work training.
The expectation was that the levy would help close the industry’s skills gap by providing guaranteed investment to develop the necessary skills, whilst also being a useful tool to promote social mobility and address the country’s productivity challenge. However, the number of new apprenticeship starts in 2018 is 24% down on pre-levy figures with employers expressing confusion and frustration over the restrictions and inflexibility of the system.
Some critics of the levy see it as little more than an extra tax and levy paying businesses are often not drawing down the money set aside in their digital accounts. Many SMEs, who do not contribute to the levy and have their apprenticeships subsidised, have called the system complicated, poorly organised and not appropriate for their training needs. Nonetheless, the Department for Education maintains the scheme is succeeding in increasing the number of quality and higher-level placements.
Whilst supporting the principles of the apprenticeships, IWFM is continuing to engage with Government to ensure the implementation achieves its potential. As indicated in our Position Paper on the levy (see link below), we have serious concerns that the financial and bureaucratic failings of the Apprenticeship Levy will turn businesses away from investing in the skills the sector needs. In particular, we are seeking reform in two key areas: ensuring sufficient funding bands are available for the FM Apprenticeship Standards and increasing flexibility to use the levy funds on a wider range of training interventions.