A new focus on SMEs and younger people from disadvantaged backgrounds will lead to an improved demand-led apprenticeship scheme, says a new report from the influential Centre for Social Justice (find the full report here).

The extensive report suggests that the UK’s current approach to apprenticeships leans too heavily towards highly qualified employees, and not enough to school leavers.

It found that the current apprenticeship system does not genuinely reflect small business demand with “considerable untapped potential” for apprenticeships among SMEs – who make up 99% of employers in the UK!

And, the report says too many big employers are using the levy funding to rebadge existing training or to accredit skills that existing staff already have. The CSJ believes that while the apprenticeship system should play a part in reskilling established workers, it must not crowd out opportunities for people who are about to join the market – particularly during the pandemic, which is rapidly extinguishing their prospects.

CSJ said that level 2 (intermediate) apprenticeships are really under pressure, and their demise affects disadvantaged people, who are more likely to undertake them. It claimed relatively few level 2 apprenticeships are being approved, with levy-paying focussing more on higher-level apprenticeships, with squeezes on funding bands also depressing starts.

One recommendation from the report is that an existing degree-level qualification should not be able to draw down on apprenticeship funds to undertake a degree-level apprenticeship.

ICB is an end-point assessor for the following apprenticeship standards:

Accounts/Finance Assistant (Level 2).

Assistant Accountant (Level 3).

Payroll Administrator (level 3).

Businesses in England will be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25. There will also be a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021. This is in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16-18-year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan..

Check out our essential guide to becoming an apprentice at https://www.bookkeepers.org.uk/Study--Qualifications/Apprenticeships