Apprenticeship levy: last chance for businesses

Grant Thornton

1st March 2019

Money Matters

Grant Thornton

By Fiona Baldwin

Practice Leader

Grant Thornton

WITH over £3bn of Apprenticeship Levy funding still untouched by UK businesses* and the first April cut off deadline just around the corner, firms have a limited time to take advantage of this golden opportunity to upskill and develop the next generation of talent.

The scheme was launched in April 2017 to encourage businesses to invest in and train new and existing employees but initially it's fair to say the reception from businesses was somewhat lukewarm, with confusion over how the levy operated.

Essentially, the scheme means that any organisation with a wage bill of over £3m now has to pay an annual 0.5 per cent tax on their payroll. The funds go into individual Digital Apprenticeship Scheme (DAS) accounts with government providing a further 10 per cent top up. Businesses can then spend the accrued money on apprenticeship training and assessments.

However, employers have only two years to spend the money in their DAS account which means, come April, any unused funds will start to return to the government on a month-by-month basis and this money will no longer be available. So far, only 20 per cent of levy-paying employers have taken on an apprentice which leaves a huge amount of untapped potential on the table.

So why does this matter for Northamptonshire businesses? Here are three key reasons you should use this opportunity to invest in apprentices if you haven't done so already.

Firstly, it is a relatively low cost way of securing the people you need to sustain and drive growth. The recruitment market is becoming increasingly competitive as organisations battle to attract the right employees from a limited available talent pool. Businesses which also focus on upskilling existing employees as a way of developing future leaders will be able to access a far wider range of skills and talents to help them succeed in the long term.

Secondly, businesses continue to highlight skills shortages as a main barrier to growth and this was a key issue identified at our Northamptonshire Limited event last year. Apprenticeships enable you to hone and develop the specific skills you need within your business in a market where they are in short supply. Creating these opportunities can also incentivise potential employees and encourage staff retention.

Finally, businesses continue to operate in a market of uncertainty with Brexit around the corner. Having the right people in place to weather any bumps in the road or seize new opportunities as they arise will be the key differentiator of successful businesses over the coming months. Preparing ahead by investing in people with an ambition and determination to learn is the key to boosting growth.

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