Firms urged to ‘unlock’ potential of apprenticeships

More travel firms should tap into the government’s apprenticeship levy to help attract and retain talent in the current market, according to accountancy firm Grant Thornton.

The company, which has been involved in developing apprenticeship courses, said widespread misperceptions about the levy and apprenticeships in general remained, five years on from its launch.

Firms in England with wage bills above £3 million a year contribute 0.5% of their pay bill to the levy to fund apprenticeship programmes, but all businesses are entitled to up to £15,000 a year for training purposes.

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Companies that do not pay into the levy only have to foot the bill for 5% of the total cost of training offered under the scheme, with the government paying the remaining 95%.

Businesses can apply for funds to train staff at all levels, from a new starter to a managing director, with more than 600 accredited courses available, including at degree level.

Grant Thornton partner Yvonne Chappell, head of travel, tourism and leisure, said: “There is money there to be spent. It’s about unlocking the pot of money available to businesses to train their staff.”

She urged firms to capitalise on this opportunity in the current market. “People have left the industry in droves so bringing people back to what is perceived to be a risky sector is difficult, while keeping people is also difficult,” she said, adding: “Funding is not just for apprentices, you can put middle management staff on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.”

Sue Ledgard, corporate account manager in the talent solutions team at Grant Thornton, said offering apprenticeship training as part of a company’s benefits package was “a really big carrot” to attract new and retain existing staff.

“Many people want to work their way up, upskill, or do a degree they never got the opportunity to do before,” she said, but added: “A lot of companies don’t use the levy. Between May 2020 and February 2021, £1.4 billion remained unspent.”

Felicity Brown, Grant Thornton associate director, supporting travel, tourism and leisure businesses, said low take-up was partly down to a lack of understanding.

“Some don’t think they have a need for it [apprenticeships] and don’t realise the real value you can get all the way through the workforce. Many feel apprenticeships are not very high-quality,” she said.

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