Sir Vince Cable today got to hear first -hand the latest views of the Apprenticeship Levy , in a visit to Oaklands College.
The Liberal Democrat Leader met with local employers, apprentices and Oaklands staff at the College’s St Albans Campus to hear their experiences of the Levy, which came into effect in April 2017.
During his time as Business Minister, Sir Vince Cable fulfilled the Government’s commitment to have 2 million people in apprenticeships. Having since raised concerns about the Levy, Sir Vince visited the college to get a view ‘on the ground’ on the Levy’s impact to date.
The Levy, which applies to all employers in England with an annual pay bill of above £3 million, aims to raise £3 billion a year to fund better training.
At Oaklands College, Sir Vince Cable saw that numbers enrolling on apprenticeships were consistent pre and post-Levy, with over 600 apprentices currently undertaking an apprenticeship at the Hertfordshire College with key local employers such as Monarch Aircraft Engineering, Quantum Care, BRE and St Albans District Council. The focus now is to maintain these figures with a view to upscale apprenticeships to industry need, indicating a positive story on the local landscape.
Sir Vince and delegates discussed issues such as the public perception of apprenticeships, both for parents and for schools, with a view for further development around communicating and reaching potential apprentices earlier their educational journey.
Level 3 Electrical apprentice Alex Balden relocated from Middlesbrough to Hertfordshire to take an apprenticeship at his father’s workplace in St Albans. He said: “I always knew I wanted to do an apprenticeship – I wanted to earn and learn and didn’t want to follow the crowd in going to University. For me it is about offsetting a short term challenge of doing something ‘different ‘for a long-term win and debt-free future in a trade I enjoy. It was great Sir Vince could take the time to listen to our experiences.”
By developing and diversifying existing provision, the College has been able to meet the needs of the ‘skills gap’ in areas such as construction, trades, food and drink and engineering. In line with today’s market for example, Science and Industry Manufacturing and Food and Drink Manufacturing have been introduced under the wider Engineering provision.
Oaklands College Principal Zoe Hancock said: “Apprenticeships are a key part of our provision and provide a great opportunity for people of all ages to develop and enhance their skills. The changes to the apprenticeship provision have put employers at the heart of skills development and we work proactively with a large number of employers, big and small, to support their business needs.”