FE Week’s second Annual Apprenticeship Conference (AAC) saw more than 900 delegates fill Birmingham’s International Convention Centre for three days from March 16 to 18 to hear the latest on the government’s apprenticeship reforms.
With speakers including sector leaders, key civil servants, government advisers, awarding bodies and apprentices themselves, the conference covered just about every aspect of the apprenticeship programme – except, perhaps, concrete answers from the government on some of the big questions.
David Hill, the first of two Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) representatives, opened the event with an overview of the government’s reforms.
His colleague, Keith Smith, the newly appointed head of levy implementation at BIS, revealed a few more tantalising glimpses of how the levy system – the cornerstone of the apprenticeship reforms – would operate.
The levy system will “change how you do business”, Mr Smith said, with providers contracting directly with employers and no longer able to rely on the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to give them certainty over their budgets.
More detail would be available in April, Mr Smith said, including “a bit about how the system is going to work for those small businesses, and how we see the service for small business developing over time”.
However, some of that detail came a little earlier than April – at the end of the second day, to be precise.
During a Q&A session Nadhim Zahawi, co-chair of the apprenticeship delivery board, dropped the bombshell that only levy-paying companies will have access to the new funding system when it is launched in April 2017.
“The core offering that we will be launching in April 2017 will effectively be delivering the levy for the two per cent levy payers, while maintaining stability in the rest of the system,” Mr Zahawi, who is also apprenticeship adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, said.
Sue Husband, the SFA’s director of apprenticeships and delivery service, then confirmed that “non-levy paying companies will still have access to government funding” once the levy has been launched. - FE Week