32913636_s-2UK: B&ES president Jim Marner has given an unequivocal thumbs-up to the government’s recently announced apprenticeship levy.

Since the announcement, it is estimated that 98% of employers will be exempt from the levy because only companies with payrolls larger than £3m a year will contribute 0.5% of their wage bill. The money will be used to create a fund worth £12bn by 2020 to pay for the planned three million Trailblazer apprenticeships.

“There had been some trepidation in the build up to Mr Osborne’s statement that the levy would be regarded as another ‘tax on employment’, but as it turns out the government believes that most employers will not have to pay anything at all – and all can benefit,” Jim Marner writes on the B&ES website.

“If any of the large firms feels resentful about having to shoulder the funding burden, they should simply make sure they get their money back – and more – by taking advantage of the scheme. Everyone else has absolutely nothing to lose.

Jim-Marner

Jim Marner: “What we have is a blueprint for future apprentice training that can play a huge part in plugging the skills gap”

“The beauty of the Trailblazer scheme is that all employers – large, medium or small – can get more out of the system than they pay in if they take on apprentices,” he adds.

“What we do have is a blueprint for future apprentice training that can play a huge part in plugging the skills gap that threatens our ability to continue delivering the high quality projects our recovering economy demands.”

However, Jim Marner admits that the B&ES does have a number of unanswered questions as to how SMEs will access the funding and how a larger employer’s unused funding might be used. He also raises concerns as to whether the funding generated by a given sector of industry would remain in that sector.

“However, these are all details the association will be working on with its members and government officials to ensure the system is robust and fit for purpose when the Trailblazer scheme goes live in September 2017,” said Jim Marner.

The B&ES is currently developing five new Trailblazer apprenticeships including industrial and commercial pipefitting and ductwork at level 2 (installer) and level 3 (craftsperson); along with service and maintenance at level 3.

“There is no more crucial issue affecting our industry than tackling skill shortages – critical to supporting business growth and higher technical standards – and is hugely reassuring that the Chancellor has recognised this important fact and, once the funding is in place, the ball will be – very firmly – in every employer’s court.”