Changes on the horizon for apprentice funding

A leading trade group has said it will be keeping a close eye on possible changes to the way funding is allocated for apprenticeships.

The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) is concerned over the possibility that employers could have to find money to pay for taking on an apprentice, in addition to the extra work involved in managing accounts and choosing providers.

A second phase consultation on the issue closed on May 1st, which had been introduced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to gauge the views of the industry on what the best options are going forward.

The proposed apprenticeship reform has been up for debate for some time, with the BIS previously publishing an implementation plan to allow businesses to take more control over how such schemes are designed and how they are assessed.

It was announced on March 20th that £170 million of extra funding would be made available to the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers scheme via the BIS and Department for Education over the next two years, while £20 million was also to be freed up to support training initiatives at degree level and for postgraduates.

APHC chief executive John Thompson said: "Whilst the extra funding is undoubtedly good news, there is industry-wide concern at the apprenticeship reforms. There is concern that the number of apprenticeships may fall."

Mr Thompson noted one of the main criticisms of the proposals was that companies would be more likely to be put off from getting involved because of the bureaucracy required - stating the plans were "too complex".

"Employers are potentially going to be asked to burden bigger responsibilities, which may include meeting an increasing proportion of costs to fund the apprenticeship," he added.

As part of the reform, organisations may also be expected to negotiate prices with training providers, before paying them in full and claiming a proportion back through HM Revenue & Customs.

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