Don’t write the levy off just yet – the future’s bright for new apprenticeships

Matthew Metcalfe challenges those he believes have been too quick to criticise the new apprenticeship levy

“The Apprenticeship Levy is failing … at least that’s what some have  been quick to claim following the release of Department of Education (DfE) statistics showing that new apprenticeship figures fell by nearly 60% in the first quarter following the levy’s implementation in April.

Some have been quick to react to these figures and condemn the scheme but I don’t think they’re right. I’m not surprised at all by this initial drop, but neither do I expect the decline in numbers to continue. From what I’ve been hearing at various levy meetings and conferences I’ve attended, many employers have kept the levy at ‘arm’s length’ this year, but this is only likely to be short-term. The phrase I continually hear is that there will be a “tsunami effect” throughout 2018 as people finally get their heads around the rules surrounding the levy, particularly the requirement for 20% off the job training, which I do think might be part of what’s frightening some employers into holding back at this stage.

I agree there needs to be further clarity from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) about the 20% rule and assurances that they won’t come down on employers who get this marginally wrong, but this is “fine-tuning” rather than wholescale change.  I still believe it’s essential for employers to give their people the necessary time away from their day to day job in order to consolidate their learning and, ultimately, develop into much stronger members of the workforce.

There are other reasons too for the slow start.

Some of the standards that are valuable to employers simply aren’t available yet. For example, in the insurance industry we were waiting for the Senior Insurance Professional standard (the old ACII) to be launched which has only recently happened. We now need to get our own timings right for getting our people onto this, which won’t take long, but it’s not an overnight job either.

Another issue is that some training providers are offering high cost standards that will help them generate cash flow to meet their own levy business plans rather than meet the needs of employers. We’ve seen lots of instances of this, for example, providers offering Chartered Management Degrees that don’t necessarily address the immediate needs of an employer. I’m convinced that the more collaboration we have with these training providers, the more we will see a stronger, employer focused proposition by this time next year.  

My confidence reflects my own direct experience. It’s only been six months since the Apprenticeship Levy went live, but for Covéa Insurance, it’s been well over 12 months since we first sat down to plan how we were going to maximise the benefits this new initiative was offering. For us it was about building on the scheme we already had in place; we already had a successful apprenticeship programme which had been running for five years and have seen some 42 apprentices graduate through various learning journeys in that time.

Our early adoption has helped us get up and running fast in embracing the opportunities of the new levy. We set and have already achieved some pretty stretching year one objectives, with 16 new apprentices joining our business and a further 24 existing members of the Covéa team starting on apprenticeship training programmes during quarter one and two 2018.

We’re also appointing a Levy Lead to look after the entire scheme across our UK operation, because we see how much value this can and already is adding to our business, this person will own and shape our strategy over the coming years.

Although the government is coming under fire from certain sectors due to the low start figures on new apprenticeships, I think this is a ‘firing from the hip’ reaction.  We’ve just put together our second-year plans and it’s clear to me there is a massive opportunity for businesses to attract, develop and upskill their workforce using the levy.  We’re in a hugely competitive market that stretches far beyond insurance. It goes against every commercial instinct to ignore an opportunity to establish a diverse talent pool that will give companies sucha major competitive advantage.  In my view, that just isn’t going to happen.”

Article originally appeared on Insurance Post on 4th December 2017

 

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Notes to Editors:

About Covéa Insurance

Covea Insurance Plc is the UK underwriting business of leading French mutual insurance group Covéa, who are number 1 for property and liability insurance in France and served 11.5 million policyholders, generating over 16.4 billion Euros in premiums in 2016.  

Covéa Insurance handles the insurance needs of over 1.3 million policyholders; delivering financial reassurance through its Standard & Poor’s A+ stable rating, as a guaranteed subsidiary of Covéa. 

The company offers motor, household, protection, mid and high net worth insurance and a range of commercial insurance products, designed to meet the needs of most individuals and businesses. Employing over 1500 people, Covéa Insurance has a strong people and service ethos, having Investors In People Gold accreditation and featuring in the 2015 and 2016 Sunday Times Top 100 Mid-sized Best Companies to Work For. It also has World Class service accreditation from the Institute of Customer Service for its Motor Claims, Home Claims and Underwriting Services teams as well as Chartered Insurer status for its Commercial and Mid/High Net Worth business.

In January 2016, Sterling Insurance Company Limited became a fully integrated part of Covea Insurance Plc, following a Part VII transfer under the Financial Services and Markets Act. Sterling Insurance was voted No. 1 in the Commercial and Personal Lines 2015 Insurance Times Broker Service Survey and Covéa Insurance was awarded the Personal Lines Insurer of the Year Award at the 2016 British Insurance Awards.

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