The apprenticeships programme Contents

2Engaging with stakeholders

Engaging with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)

18.Many small businesses have little awareness of the apprenticeship reforms underway, despite the fact that this group employs about half of all apprentices in England. The Department for Education (the Department) accepted that it had given priority to its engagement with levy-paying, large companies.28

19.We questioned the Department about the funding rules applicable to SMEs once the apprenticeship levy is in place in April 2017. The Department explained that it had consulted on a specific proposal about the ‘co-payment’, which is the financial contribution that SMEs would be asked to pay for each apprenticeship. Under the proposal, SMEs would contribute 10% of the training costs, and the Government would contribute the remaining 90%. Subsequently, the Department confirmed that these co-payment figures would apply from 2017.29

20.We asked the Department whether large companies will be permitted to pass levy funds on to SMEs in their supply chain. The Department confirmed that this option would not be available when the levy is launched in 2017. It told us that it had consulted on the subject, and was analysing the responses before making decisions on whether and how large employers may transfer a portion of their levy funds to smaller employers in their supply chain. The Department later announced the formation of a new employer group to help develop this system.30

Engaging with prospective apprentices

21.There is some powerful analysis setting out the increased earnings that apprentices in certain sectors are likely to achieve. For example, within three to five years, successful apprentices in the engineering and construction sectors might earn, on average, 26% and 32% more respectively than those who were unsuccessful. These earnings “premiums” are much higher than the equivalent premiums for those doing classroom-based learning. From summer 2017, the Department also expects to have other measures in place, such as the “destinations” of successful apprentices and their average earnings in the years after completion.31

22.However, this type of analysis can be difficult to interpret, and is not primarily intended to be used for marketing the apprenticeships programme. We asked the Department about the guidance and information available to potential apprentices and their families. We were particularly concerned that schools have little incentive to encourage pupils to take an apprenticeship. The Department accepted that many young people choose an apprenticeship because of the example of friends or neighbours, not as a result of careers guidance at school. The Careers & Enterprise Company, which has a network of around 1,000 advisers working with schools, is responsible for ensuring that young people have the full range of options presented to them. The Department told us that schools sometimes run sessions using material from the National Careers Service and the National Apprenticeship Service, but the way this material was used should be more consistent.32

23.The Department noted that the prospect of the levy had prompted a broader range of employers to consider taking on apprentices for the first time. As a result, more large employers had approached the Department to look for advice on how they might market themselves to potential apprentices.33 The Department also referred to the “Get In, Go Far” advertising campaign which it ran in summer 2016, noting that there had been 1 million online views of video content and 850,000 visits to the campaign website, and that those exposed to the campaign had provided positive feedback on it. The Department expressed the belief that such campaigns change people’s views on the value of apprenticeships, but accepted that “there is a lot more to do”.34

28 Q 63; C&AG’s Report, para 3.5

29 Q 13, Department for Education policy paper, Apprenticeship funding in England from May 2017, October 2016

30 Q 15; Department for Education policy paper, Apprenticeship funding in England from May 2017, October 2016

31 C&AG’s Report, paras 2.12 and 2.15, and Figure 6

25 November 2016