Today the Apprenticeship Levy will be introduced as part of a Government drive to train 3 million new apprentices by 2020. An apprenticeship is a viable option for school leavers to progress into working life and at ICAEW, we want to make sure that those entering the profession are aware of the different routes available to them so they can choose the one that suits them best. In order to create as many opportunities as possible for the next generation of business leaders, we need to ensure that businesses recognise the value in hiring an apprentice.
I was surprised to see a few weeks ago that City and Guilds research found a third of employers who will be eligible to pay the Apprenticeship Levy from April are not aware of its existence. The levy will affect all businesses in one way or another, so it is crucial that they understand the implications of the levy and the associated benefits of hiring an apprentice.
By offering apprenticeships, businesses can pride themselves in being ahead of the game and leading the future of the profession. This is a golden opportunity to sit in the driving seat and develop the exact skills, knowledge and behaviours businesses want to see in their employees. In fact, 82% of employers already take on apprentices to build on the skills capacity within their business, and 89% of employers believe that apprentices make their business more productive.
Recruiting school leavers widens access to the accountancy profession and provides businesses with a more diverse workforce. For example, at ICAEW the level 4 trailblazer apprenticeship has been designed as an entry-level role in accountancy. This route in to the profession is aimed at school-leavers who are looking at alternative routes to university, graduates, as well as professionals who are looking to change career and re-train. Apprenticeships give people of all ages and from all backgrounds a chance to get on the ladder of opportunity. They are an opportunity for all businesses to cast the net a little wider and tap into a deeper pool of talent.
This is why we have worked with employers and Government to develop a rigorous assessment for our apprentices that not only meets the Government’s requirements, but also upholds the quality we apply to all of our existing qualifications, which will raise the quality of apprenticeships. I am delighted we are now approved as an Apprentice Assessment Organisation which means we will deliver end point assessments for the trailblazer apprenticeship, allowing apprentices to demonstrate their competence.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes can benefit from the levy. For businesses with an annual wage bill of less than £3m, the levy will not be charged. However even if a business doesn’t pay the levy, they can still receive government support to pay for apprenticeship training.
For ICAEW, the merits of these new opportunities are clear and I hope that businesses across the UK will support apprenticeships and help to open more doors for the next generation of talent.