Increasing the number of apprenticeships to provide opportunities is urgently needed to respond to the challenge of unemployment facing young Londoners and addressing London’s skills gap which is vital to inclusive growth in the boroughs and the capital’s supply chains.
As well as opening immediate opportunities for learning on the job, apprenticeships provide valuable pathways for skills acquisition, new qualifications and higher salaries as they progress in their careers.
Nationally the number of under-19s starting apprenticeships has fallen by 53,900 between 2015-16 and 2021-22 (41%), while the number of 19-24-year olds starting apprenticeships has decreased by 47,530 (31%) in the same time frame. Boroughs are determined to play their part in helping to reverse this decline.
At a London Councils Apprenticeship Summit in central London, Council leaders and Chief Executives will showcase best practice and demonstrate the actions underway in creating more apprenticeships across the boroughs, including the benefits they will bring to communities locally through wide-ranging recruitment opportunities.
One of the many challenges boroughs face is the inflexibility of the apprenticeship levy. The levy was introduced in 2017 and requires larger employers to pay a proportion of their annual pay bill into a central pot to fund apprenticeship training.
Lack of flexibility in how the levy can be spent is creating barriers to boroughs and other employers who wish to make full use of these much-needed funds. Currently, the levy can only be spent on training costs, not on an apprentice’s wages or the administrative costs involved in hiring and supporting an apprentice.
Between April 2021 and March 2022, a total of £44.7 million was available to London boroughs through the apprenticeship levy. Yet London boroughs spent just under half of apprenticeship levy available to them.
In the London Business 1000 Survey in 2022, it was revealed that 86% of firms do not employ apprentices at all. Of those who did not, a quarter of businesses cited administration time (25%) or the management/workload involved (23%) as reasons for not employing apprentices.
London Councils is calling on government to listen to boroughs and businesses to enable more flexibility on how levy funding is spent. This will mean thousands of pounds of funding can be invested where apprentices need help and support most, rather than being returned to Government.
Boroughs recognise that without significant action on several fronts, this downward trend in young people becoming apprentices will continue, threatening the future talent pipeline in London and across the country at a time when there are severe workforce shortages.
Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, London Councils’ Executive Member for Skills and Employment, said:
“Apprenticeships open up amazing opportunities to Londoners from diverse communities and walks of life. Boroughs are a driving force in championing apprenticeships as a fantastic way for young people to gain new skills as well as boosting industries with recruitment challenges – including London boroughs themselves.
“Starting with this Apprenticeship Summit today, local leaders across the capital are taking action to shift the dial so that we boost the number of young Londoners starting apprenticeships with London boroughs and our supply chains. Through greater collaboration, we hope to overcome the obstacles in our path and see the many rewards that come with investing in our young people.
“It is also imperative that more is done to make it easier for employers to hire apprentices and help them realise their potential as they enter the workforce. There is growing evidence that Government must work with employers to overhaul the apprenticeship levy so that more of it can be invested in upskilling Londoners for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”