Consultation on the Scottish Government Response to the Introduction of the UK Apprenticeship Levy – August 2016
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In July 2015 the UK Government announced its plans to introduce a UK wide Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017. Employers will pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill in excess of £3m through the PAYE system. Those with an annual paybill of £3m or less will be exempt. The Levy will apply to employers in the public, private and third sectors.
This consultation sought views on options for the use of Apprenticeship Levy funding being transferred to the Scottish Government.
For more information about the consultation, see https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/employability-and-training/apprenticeship-levy
- Should the Government’s commitment to 30,000 Modern Apprenticeships starts a year by 2020 a) be maintained or b) be increased?
Before any commitment to increasing Modern Apprenticeship starts is considered, Scottish Care believes an analysis of current placement practice should be undertaken and consideration be given to what support may need to be in place to facilitate the most effective use of existing Apprenticeship starts and any future placements. It would be important to ascertain where Modern Apprenticeship placements are required, and what infrastructure needs to be in place to accommodate these placements.
The social care sector is experiencing significant recruitment and retention challenges, and the nature (or perceived nature) of the work means it isn’t seen as an attractive career path for many young people. However, careful consideration would need to be given to how Modern Apprenticeships could support the sector and how in turn, the sector can support more people into employment. For instance, the Care at Home sector in particular would likely need investment in place to create a foundation for effective implementation. The nature of this would not necessarily be known without an analysis of existing Apprenticeship practice, barriers and required infrastructure and without direct engagement with employers in this sector.
Therefore more thought needs to be given to how the current commitment can be meaningfully met, before increases are considered.
Additionally, consideration needs to be given to what pathways are available in different sectors after an individual completes an Apprenticeship.
- Should Apprenticeship Levy funding support growth in the number of Graduate Level Apprenticeships in Scotland?
Any initiative to promote careers in care through the use of Apprenticeships would need to be carefully thought through with providers, regulatory bodies and higher education facilities.
Graduate Level Apprenticeships in particular need to be very carefully considered. In nursing for example, we have seen a move away from college based learning to degree qualifications with specialisms. We would therefore be interested as to what effect a Graduate Level Apprenticeship would have on the perception of particular roles in the care sector, either positively or negatively, or whether it would encourage more people to enter the sector.
There may be an opportunity for Graduate Level Apprenticeships to be used to develop advanced skills for particular roles. As the social care sector increasingly supports individuals with complex needs, and there is closer alignment of job roles from health and social care, there is a need to ensure we have the right skill mix and number of appropriately skilled people working in an integrated health and social care setting to deliver the care required. This is likely to mean a degree of upskilling, which these Apprenticeships may be able to support.
However, if these are work based learning opportunities for existing employees, consideration must be given to how employers are supported financially to enable these Apprenticeships to be undertaken in a sector already experiencing sustainability issues in relation to workforce costs and where any releases from work for learning would need to be backfilled by another employee.
- Should Apprenticeship Levy funding be used to establish a flexible skills fund to support wider workforce development?
Scottish Care believes there would be real value in the establishment of a flexible skills fund. A flexible skills fund would be compatible with the changing nature of the social care sector, given the implementation of Health & Social Care Integration and how this has the potential to create new job roles with different skill requirements. What this might look like in practice is largely unknown at present, so a flexible fund that could support workforce development across the health and social care sector would be beneficial.
What’s more, the social care sector has an ageing workforce. If the monies could be available for use for all ages of employees, social care services could benefit more. Older, experienced people bring a great deal of value and experience to this sector, so an opportunity to support workforce development outwith an Apprenticeship programme targeted at younger people would be welcome.
Consideration should also be given to how the Apprenticeship programme could support job redesign.
Flexibility in the use of the fund would be critical to its success, providing opportunities to target different workforce development needs in different sectors.
- Should Apprenticeship Levy funding be used to support the expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships?
Whilst potentially very useful, for social care this requires a wider joined up approach between employers, regulatory bodies and education services in relation to how we educate and inform young people about potential career options. It is important to encourage more young people to consider a career in care and to articulate the positive opportunities such a career offers.
However, it is important that those who undertake Apprenticeships in care do so with an informed expectation of what this entails and that they have the right values. After all, social care services often support the most vulnerable people in society so must be about more than providing work experience. There are also additional factors such as maturity and responsibility levels, PVG requirements and practicality issues (for instance Care at Home Foundation Apprenticeships would potentially be very difficult for care at home providers because care drivers are often stipulated as a requirement), which raise particular challenges in the care sector.
However this opportunity may be shaped positively through the Apprenticeship Levy with the right engagement and planning.
- Should Apprenticeship Levy funding be used to help unemployed people move into employment, and to help meet the workforce needs of employers?
Again, this would require analysis of what employers’ needs are in order that they can be matched effectively with those seeking employment. Significant engagement with different sectors would be required in order to understand and therefore plan this effectively. The care sector experiences particular challenges with retaining employees in the first weeks and months of employment, with significant wasted resource in relation to money, training and time as a result. Therefore the Scottish Government would need to work with the sector to understand why this is and how to reduce this through effective employment support services.
- Are there any additional suggestions on how Apprenticeship Levy funding might be used?
It is important to note the concerns from social care providers in relation to the Apprenticeship Levy, particularly in the current climate.
The sector is experiencing severe recruitment challenges in Care Homes and Care at Home services and is going through significant reform processes in relation to the ways these services are commissioned, funded and delivered, as well as how they support their workforce. Whilst the Levy will only apply to a proportion of employers, additional financial burdens on providers are likely to prove counterproductive and de-stabilising. The Levy would have to be factored into the new cost of care calculations (currently underway) for both Care Homes and Care at Home.
The true cost of creating an Apprenticeship model has to be factored in. The real cost sits behind pay given to apprentices. Considerable outlay is required in creating the support mechanism for the individual to learn. This outlay relates to support for day release for study (where positions may need to be backfilled) but also one-to-one guidance, support and supervision. It is important to note that in the care sector, even those at Apprenticeship level are likely to be faced with significant responsibility and challenging situations, so support and supervision is absolutely crucial in a way that it may not be in some other sectors. Mentoring would be required, which brings another duty to an already overburdened workforce. Those providing this supportive role should be rewarded, but this has cost implications and would especially be difficult for smaller providers and care at home services where lone working practices are often in place.
Apprenticeships must also factor in the risks for an employer, especially small businesses for whom managing apprenticeship programmes can be challenging. Appropriate support and infrastructure must therefore be understood and be in place. Otherwise we risk the potential benefits of Apprenticeship placements, both for individuals and employers, not reaching particular sectors.
Expectation in relation to the scope and potential of the Levy must also be factored in, particularly in the care sector where clearly defined, progressive career structures can be challenging. For instance, will the Apprenticeship Levy support individuals to develop additional skills such as clinical or managerial skills? Or, can Apprenticeship opportunities be redesigned to offer more creative solutions where there are challenges in recruiting and retaining staff? These questions and others relating to scope and potential can only be sufficiently answered through further meaningful engagement with employers in the care sector, in order that the Scottish Government can fully understand what the Apprenticeship Levy can or cannot achieve in this sector.
Scottish Care feels that the Levy should be used to assist the workforce in identified areas of shortage across all age groups, but it must be recognised that support for Apprentices will have to be offered or factored in for all businesses. Otherwise small social services providers, who make up a very significant part of this important sector, will not see any benefits of the Levy.
In summary, Scottish Care believes use of the Apprenticeship Levy can offer some benefits to individuals and employers in the social care sector, and are supportive of means of encouraging more people to join and remain in the sector. However, to ensure the Levy is implemented effectively at an already seriously challenging time for many employers in relation to workforce costs and viability, the Scottish Government needs to ensure it has engaged fully with employers in different sectors, particularly social care, to understand what support and infrastructure needs to be in place.