With major tax and spending changes being moved to the autumn Budget, the Spring Statement was used by the Chancellor to provide updates on the economy and announce a number of tax consultations. There were, however, a couple of employment and skills announcements hidden within the Statement.
To help small businesses engage with apprenticeships, Phillip Hammond has announced £80 million will be used to support smaller organisations. Although the government has a long term target of achieving three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, this spending announcement comes on the back of statistics which show the number of apprenticeships are falling.
The number of apprenticeship starts fell by 59 per cent between May and July 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. One reason for the fall might be the confusion the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 caused large organisations, or due to organisations pausing their apprenticeship plans until the scheme was fully in place. It is hoped small changes to the levy scheme, such as allowing organisations to transfer their funds to any other business from April 2018, will encourage these organisations to make use of apprenticeship schemes.
Recent apprentice changes have also meant smaller organisations now have to pay 10 per cent of training costs and ensure the apprentice is spending at least 20 per cent of their time carrying out off-the-job training. It is hoped the additional spending will encourage a greater number of smaller organisations to introduce and increase apprentice schemes in their business.
Alongside the apprenticeship spending, the Chancellor revealed additional money will be put in place to help employers start placements for T-level students. T-levels, first announced in 2016, are technical qualifications in a number of different sectors which can be studied in place of academic A-levels. They are aimed at helping young people get in to the job market quicker as they teach vocational skills, alongside knowledge and behaviours.
As part of the T-level programme, the student will undertake a work placement to allow them to apply their learning in the working environment. T-levels are being rolled out on a phased approach, with Digital, Construction, and Education and Childcare, being taught from 2020 with the full set being rolled out by 2022. To support this process, the Chancellor has pledged £50 million to help organisations develop workplace placements to help the scheme succeed.