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David Cameron warns businesses: Back apprenticeships or lose Government contracts

David Cameron recently shared his plan to increase the number of apprenticeship programmes offered by large businesses.

The Prime Minister, who has pledged to support 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, announced that companies bidding for government contracts worth over £10m must show they employ a “reasonable portion” of apprentices.

He said: “The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce and by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business.”

The government has also reaffirmed plans to start charging large firms a controversial ‘apprenticeship levy’ within two years, as was proposed in George Osborne’s post-election Budget in June. The government said that more than 50 countries operate such a levy system.

Although the size of the levy has not yet been set in the UK, the move is said to make larger companies, many of which make millions of pounds in profits, less reliant on the state to pay for the training of their staff.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently launched a consultation that requests the views of employers, business organisations and training organisations, on how the levy should operate.

However, the proposal has raised questions from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation: Chief executive, Terry Scuoler, said: “With little detail of the level of the levy, who will be required to pay it and how much government will give back in return, manufacturers have a right to remain sceptical that the levy will create the three million additional quality apprenticeships that we all wish to see.”

He went on to add that a number of large manufacturers “will be surprised by the suggestion from government that it is they who are currently failing to invest in apprenticeships”.

Despite this criticism, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has welcomed David Cameron’s announcement.

Director General, John Longworth, said: “Apprenticeship schemes can play a part in meeting important ambitions to boost skills and drive-up productivity”.

Longworth did however add that the apprenticeship plans should also include small businesses and not just larger corporations.

“Government policy is currently too focused on major employers, but equal effort ought to be put on encouraging and supporting smaller businesses to offer apprenticeships,” he said.

It is businesses like Be Wiser Insurance Services that have blazed the trail in this sector of the economy and the company’s apprenticeship programmes play an important role in skilling the workforce of tomorrow.

The Hampshire employer now offers three award winning apprenticeship programmes, which produce trained and qualified insurance professionals for the growing business and wider insurance industry.

Be Wiser has been listed amongst the top 100 apprenticeship employers in the country and was recently appointed Apprenticship Ambassador for the South of England in recognition of its contribution.

The prime minister’s announcement came days after the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) produced a report into the over-qualification and skills mismatch in the graduate labour market, in which it highlighted the growing importance of apprenticeships.

Director of Learning and Organisational Development at Be Wiser, Crescens George, said: “Businesses should not expect colleges to churn talent out, you will never get the right talent. You have to invest in the basics and train those people so they are right for your business. That is the philosophy surrounding all of Be Wiser’s apprenticeships and talent development programmes.”

What is your opinion on David Cameron’s proposal to only allow apprenticeship employers to be awarded large government contracts?

Do you think an ‘apprenticeship levy is a good idea?

Leave your opinions in the comments section below:

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