Making the levy pay – how can trusts make the most of the apprenticeship model?

Apprenticeships have been a central pillar of education and employment policy in England for the last half decade, under both the coalition and the current minority Conservative Government. Former Prime Minister David Cameron introduced a number of reforms to the apprenticeship programme in a bid to “Get Britain Working”. Cameron’s target of creating 3 million apprentices by 2020 across all sectors was favoured by all parties parliament at the time and by the business community which saw apprenticeships as a means to plug skills gaps at a relatively low cost and attract talent for the long-term.

The current government has retained this emphasis, setting a target for public sector employers to have 2.3% of their workforce comprised of apprentices. Around 1% of the NHS workforce, approximately 14,000, are currently completing an apprenticeship, and growing this element of the workforce is a key part of the NHS long term plan’s commitment to invest in staff and reduce vacancies.

Since 2017 organisations with a pay bill over £3m have been subject to the apprenticeship levy, a tax set at 0.5% of the total pay bill and designated for funding apprenticeship training courses. Employers can use their contribution to the levy to fund the training and assessment component of apprenticeships in their own organisation for apprentices over the age of 16.

The majority of NHS provider trusts will be paying the apprenticeship levy and there is an opportunity to put this money to good use and create an apprenticeship model which supports the development of a future pipeline of staff tailored to the needs of the trust.

Apprenticeships provide routes into a variety of careers in the NHS and are an excellent opportunity to earn, gain work experience and achieve nationally recognised qualifications at the same time. NHS Providers policy officer, Leanora Volpe, outlines what they are and how they will add value to the NHS.


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