Question posted to the panel from the CMI Live Webinar hosted on 8th March 2017

Q1: I would be interested in hearing what the panel had to say about how employers or sub-contractors can combine 

The panel covered this during the webinar – the view was that the most effective delivery models are where collaboration between the employers, providers and potential sub-contractors is optimised. 

Q2: What do you say to managers who are concerned about giving their apprentices 20% off the job training - what examples of this 20% can you give us? 

The panel covered this during the webinar – the view was that it is vital that the organisation commits to enabling apprentices to have sufficient time to undertake their learning (knowledge or skills) off the job – and that this is part of making an apprenticeship programme a success. 

Off the job training could be a mixture of things – distance learning, online learning, working on a project, attending workshops/seminars, research and reading, undertaking assignments.  The main thing is that it has to be time that is not being spent doing the day job.

Full guidance on what the SFA regard as off the job training can be found in the Employer Funding rules document.

Q3: What is your take on the situation where you have multiple providers across a number of niche roles? Would you recommend managing all of these yourself or working with a lead provider to manage your other providers on your company's behalf?

The panel covered this during the webinar – the view was that in some instances a lead provider may be the answer, however in others managing this internally can be the best approach – however the right level of resource needs to be put in place to enable this.

Q4: Can you clarify how the apprenticeship levy will work in Wales

Welsh Government have recently published their Apprenticeship Policy.

In a nutshell, Welsh Govt have identified their Key Apprenticeship Priorities as:

  • Delivering the commitment for a minimum of 100,000 quality all age apprenticeships over the next 5 years – enabling many more employers to get involved.
  • Increasing the number of higher apprenticeships and piloting degree apprenticeships particularly in science, technology, engineering and professional routes – to be­tter meet the needs of the economy.
  • Improving apprenticeship credibility and integration into the education system to get more school leavers (16-19) to join the programme.
  • Revising systems to develop framework learning content – to be more responsive to often rapidly changing employer needs.
  • Developing opportunities, such as the Regional Skills Partnerships to enable all stakeholders to work together to create a stronger sustainable intelligence led system.
  • Maintaining completion rates at over 80% and introducing additional measures of quality such as destination data which will look at future earnings and other benefits.

Irrespective of where the apprentice lives, or where the employer is based, Welsh Government funding and priorities apply where an apprentice is working in Wales for 51% or more of his/her time – detail accessed via the Business Wales Skills Gateway. 

Q5: How do the panel think the public sector need to operate the Levy differently, considering the requirements of the public sector target?

The panel covered this during the webinar – the view was that the approach is likely to be similar whether private or public sector - however the public sector target was going to present a significant challenge. 

Q6: Can you confirm that access to the Levy funds is not available to employees based in Northern Ireland yet companies based in Northern Ireland are required to pay into the Levy?

Employers in Northern Ireland will be required to pay into the levy. How Northern Ireland will choose to use their allocation from the levy is not yet clear.

Q7: Are employers able to spend the Levy on the tools for gap analysis? 

Levy funds can only be spent on the delivery of the apprenticeship itself.  Employers will have to resource any activity involved in the development of their strategy and skills gap analysis.  Full details of the funding rules can be found here

Q8: Can I ask the responsibilities of a) the provider b) the company c) the apprentice d) the direct line manager?  Any guidelines around this?

The panel covered this in the webinar – the view was that there are clear responsibilities which include ensuring that the apprenticeship can be delivered in line with the organisations needs and to a high quality, that the apprentice is supported effectively whilst on the apprenticeship, and that relevant coaching and mentoring is put in place.  It was also the view that the organisation needs to have a clear strategy in place, which is fully supported by the board.

The SFA have set out responsibilities for each party within the funding rules, which includes an apprenticeship agreement that must be put in place, and the requirement for there to be a proper job for the apprentice. 

Q9: How much will each company pay in terms of apprenticeship levy? 

The levy requires all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3 million each year, to invest in apprenticeships. Detailed information can be found here.

The HMRC guidance states:

As an employer, you’ll have to pay Apprenticeship Levy each month from 6 April 2017 if you:

  • have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million
  • are connected to other companies or charities for Employment Allowance which in total have an annual pay bill of more than £3 million

Your annual pay bill is all payments to employees that are subject to employer Class 1 secondary National Insurance contributions (NICs) such as wages, bonuses and commissions. You must include payments to:

  • all employees earning below the Lower Earnings Limit and the Secondary Threshold
  • employees under the age of 21
  • apprentices under the age of 25

The amount each employer will pay will vary depending on their return.  HMRC have produced guidance which can be found here.

To calculate your levy click here

Q10: How will the company access the levy money for their apprenticeship schemes? 

Levy paying organisations will access their funds via their digital account. Levy paying organisations can now sign up for their account and full details can be found here.

Q11: How does the apprenticeship service account work?

Details on how the service will work has been published, and a step by step guide is available and guidance on how to set up and use your digital account can be found here.

Q12: How do you go about choosing an apprenticeship training provider?

The panel covered this during the webinar – the view is that it is paramount that the employer clearly understands that the organisation needs in relation to skills development before they start considering how to spend tier levy pot, and which provider (or providers) to select.  Employers should look at what different providers can offer, how they deliver, whether they are using new approaches to delivery (eg online/virtual learning), geographical coverage, quality etc.  It may be that a number of different providers are required depending on the types of apprenticeships that are needed. Employers also need to be prepared to negotiate with the provider.

Employer can also use the Apprenticeship Service tool to locate providers.