More questions than answers

After a turbulence of the last few weeks, both employers and providers are trying to make sense of the current situation for the funding of apprenticeships in levy and non-levy paying employers.

What we do know is that the apprenticeship levy for large employers with annual paybills of over £3 million is still to be introduced from April 2017, and that their digital apprenticeship service accounts are still planned to be up and running from January 2017. They will pay their levy contribution to HMRC through the PAYE process along with tax and NICs, and their accounts will be topped up with a 10% contribution from the government. But is this the best time to introduce an additional payroll tax of 0.5% when there is so much uncertainty about future economic growth? We also know that the government is still committed to achieving 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020, although there are some doubts about the predictions for new jobs created and tax revenue raised by that date. The drive to replace frameworks by the new standards is also continuing, although the original timescales have been extended and there still seems to be a lack of clarity about how independent end-point assessment will actually work in some sectors.

While the high level scope remains the same there are is a significant lack of operational detail, although that was originally promised to be available from June 2016. How will the new independent Institute for Apprenticeships oversee the design and delivery of apprenticeships, and also the introduction of the proposed new technical and professional qualifications? How will the new register of providers be operated and what are the implications for those who do not get accepted onto the register first time? But just as importantly, how will non-levy paying employers be affected and how will their new apprentices be funded after April 2017?