Apprenticeship starts plummet after levy introduction

6 December 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

The number of apprenticeship starts plummeted by 24.1% in the 2017-18 academic year, new figures show.

There were 375,800 apprenticeship starts in 2017/18, compared with 494,900 in the year before, according to the Department for Education.

Compared to the 2015/16 academic year, apprenticeship starts in 2017/18 fell even further – down 26.2% on the 509,400 starts that year.

The fall follows the introduction in May 2017 of the apprenticeship levy, into which companies with a pay bill of over £3m a year have to pay.

Quarterly apprenticeship starts from May 2015 (Source: Department for Education)

The Department for Education said that as of January 2018, 91.7% of those who had PAYE schemes with apprenticeship levy declarations in England of over £150,000 had registered on the Apprenticeship Service.

Those firms have two years to spend their funds and the government claimed that “as the new system becomes more established, such changes are likely to significantly impact on apprenticeship starts being reported”.

But Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said: “Apprenticeships are falling and the government must take urgent action to reverse the decline. At the recent Conservative Party Conference, the Government announced much-needed reforms to the apprenticeship levy but these do not go far enough.

“From April 2019, large firms will be allowed to pass 25% of levy vouchers down through the supply chain to smaller firms but the FMB is calling for this to be increased to 100%. This is an important change because in construction, it’s the smaller firms that train more than two thirds of all apprentices.”


This news doesn't surprise me. The rot in apprentice training began when the Inland revenue accepted the notion of "labour only subcontracting". Before then the work undertaken by a Builder was paid on the basis of unit rates e.g. so much a square metre for brickwork or lineal meter of skirting.

Built into those rates were the cost of both labour and materials. The former based on gang sizes consisting of fully qualified tradesmen, associated labourers and apprentices. The total cost of which was then divided by the gang output to which was added the material and waste cost to arrive at the unit rate for the work described in the "Bills of Quantities" or Tender Document.

Those same labour rates were then adopted by the new Labour only subcontractors who ignored or conveniently forgot that there was an element of training included. The training of apprentices was simply forgotten until, surprise surprise we had a looming skills shortage to which the government's reaction was to introduce 6 month training programmes (CITB) with the expectation of creating skilled operatives in so short a time.

It has been a failure ever since and it is not surprising that the industry has had to rely on foreign trained workers. Those I know who have taken on youths either as young labourers or apprentices inevitably discover that they cant get up in the morning and fail to make the grade. All down to the Lily livered liberal educationalists who have no understanding of how industry operates.

And Governments fail to understand, as recent events have shown, that you cannot price multimillion pound projects by licking your finger and taking a guess at the cost. The Channel Tunnel, HS1, HS2 and Cross rail are all good examples. The latter overestimated in the first place and then still having had money "thrown at it"!

Let the industry go back to the old tried and tested ways of the Client employing the PQS and the various contractors invited to tender pricing on a single Bill of Quants and based on a Contract that spells out the requirements for apprenticeship training as well as other matters and we might discover that the true price of a project is known at the outset. It may be that the cost is found uneconomical and cannot be justified.

If that becomes the case at least we will have a trained workforce and Companies that don't go bust!


What a carry on,here we are desperate for trade people and what happens the levy is cut TYPICAL TORY GOVERNMENT send everyone to UNI to finish up with massive debt's and not a clue what to do in the future.
How many Tory's read the C.M.?? if so we need qualified trades people so sort out the levy's

Denis Lawler, 8 December 2018

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