If there’s one topic (apart from Brexit) that is almost certain to come up at any business gathering these days it’s the apprenticeship levy. There’s one word on everyone’s lips and that’s ‘flexibility’. Levy funding can only be spent on apprenticeships which must last a minimum of 12 months. This means that agency workers and others on temporary contracts are not able to benefit. It also means that employers don’t have as much choice when it comes to training options for their staff.
However, there have been some welcome developments in Scotland in recent weeks with the establishment of the £10 million Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF). Here’s what you need to know:
The fund gives Levy-paying employers in Scotland the opportunity to apply for up to £10,000 to help pay for training to up-skill and re-skill their existing workforce. The funds will be made available by Skills Funding Scotland via regional colleges. A ‘training needs analysis’ will need to be undertaken by the employer as part of the application. The fund can be used as a part-contribution towards training of a higher cost. The fund is in addition to apprenticeship support which all employers are eligible to access in Scotland. The fund will not support any training required by law. While employers can train any members of the workforce, they are encouraged to consider under-represented groups including older workers, veterans and those in low skilled jobs. Applications to the fund must be submitted by 15th December 2017.
This is a good opportunity for our levy paying members in Scotland to access funding for a wider range of training. While we’d like to see Skills Funding Scotland work with other bodies that deliver training – like the REC – it’s encouraging that alternative approaches are being piloted. We’ll be making this point and raising members’ wider concerns when we’re at the SNP Party Conference in October.
We’ll also be monitoring the development of the fund closely to see what lessons can be learned for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We believe it’s essential that all workers are able to benefit from levy funding and that employers and recruiters are afforded greater flexibility when choosing training options. We along with other business bodies will continue to make the case for this to the government.
If you’d like to help us campaign on this issue, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.