Myth-Busting the Apprenticeship Levy

Last week brought together engineering, manufacturing and technology businesses of all sizes to the 7th METALL forum, held at the Ricardo Centenary Innovation Centre in Shoreham. It was a chance for like-minded delegates from SE based engineering and manufacturing companies, to discuss how best to use the Apprenticeship Levy, and how to find and fund the next generation of talent for these industries. 

The open discussions were led by John Norton from SIGTA Limited and Carlene Jackson, of Cloud 9 Insight. They managed to give some insight into the complexity of the Levy scheme and talk about some of the recurring problems that business leaders are struggling with? 


  • We learnt that the Apprentice Levy raises funds to pay for apprentice training costs and NOT their pay.
  • That to hire an apprentice, you need to contact an approved government training provider, who will shortlist the candidate for you and organise your training programme.
  • Training provider will also get paid directly by the government, all the employer has to do is build their office and factory, to work around training days at college.

The main question on everyone's lips was, 'how do we get funding for industry-specific training, which is not recognised by the government?' The Levy was originally set up to provide businesses with funding to develop and train young people into STEM-specific industries - it doesn't work when the employer has no control over it and can't tailor it to meet its own business needs, this is ultimately where the problem lies with the fund.

When we talk about 'Busting the Myth of the Apprenticeship Levy', we talk about a fund that is good in principle but needs to be changed so it works alongside the employer, so they too feel like they are getting a return on their investment. In its current state, the Levy is too inflexible and does not allow the employer to tailor apprenticeships to different sectors, business models or business sizes. This effectively leads to so many small businesses feeling out of pocket. The whole process becomes time-consuming and requires off-the-job learning which means staff are taken away from their day to day duties. 

We have a growing skills gap and a lack of home-grown talent, and the government has made the whole experience far too complex for some small business to take on. 

WATCH John Norton, CEO if SIGTA Ltd provides an overview of the Apprenticeship Levy and discusses how to make apprentices work for organisations: