The Digital Apprenticeship Voucher Scheme Addressing the Skills Shortage Ticking Time Bomb?

The Digital Apprenticeship Voucher Scheme Addressing the Skills Shortage Ticking Time bomb?
The concern over the growing skills gap in the country was addressed in the recent Budget announcement, with the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) stating the government’s proposed voucher model for apprenticeship funding was an improvement and showed that Ministers had listened (after much lobbying) to the construction industry.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The new digital apprenticeship voucher model is a vast improvement on what was formerly proposed… With the skills time bomb ticking ever more loudly, the last thing we need is for employers to stop hiring apprentices in the interim.”
It’s true to say that if the UK is going to deliver the £377bn infrastructure pipeline and retain our competitive edge, industry will need a diverse workforce that is technically and intellectually proficient. And this begins really well with apprentices.
Practical action like the Digital Apprenticeship Voucher Scheme incentivises employers to offer more apprenticeships. The benefits of taking youngsters through practical learning that is supported by the Government are three fold, it’s cheaper for the employer, creates a home-grown skilled worksforce and helps youngsters get the experience they so need to formulate skills and begin their career..
Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Director General Nick Baveystock said: “The chancellor’s budget announcement of a voucher scheme for employers taking on apprentices is good news, particularly for SMEs.
What is An Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes which will lead to a nationally recognised qualification.
Apprentices will normally attend day release at local colleges or specialist training providers as part of their training, which can take between one to four years to complete, depending on the level of apprenticeship.
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• Apprentices can be anyone over the age of 16 and not in full time education.
• Apprenticeships can be for school leavers or those who are seeking to start a new career.
• Many of the special protections for young workers in the working time regulations will apply to apprentices.
As employees apprentices would normally be expected to work for at least 30 hours per week, for which employers can receive funding from the National Apprentice Service, however, funding will depend on the sector and the age of the apprentice.
The 3 levels of apprenticeship

1. Intermediate Level Apprenticeships – apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 2 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.
2. Advanced Level Apprenticeships – apprentices work towards work-based learning such as a Level 3 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.
3. Higher Apprenticeships – apprentices undertake a framework at Level 4 and above which will include a competence based qualification, Functional Skills and in some cases a broader vocationally related qualification which could be a Foundation degree.
How Does the Digital Apprenticeship Voucher Work?

The apprenticeship voucher was launched due to concerns that, under the original proposals, smaller companies would have to bear the cost of training upfront, handle public money, and deal with extra bureaucracy.
The Digital Apprenticeship Voucher Scheme allows employers to purchase training directly from providers using the voucher, which represents the public funding available to them. They will then pay only the balance of training costs which are not fully funded. The system will be paperless and administered by the Skills Funding Agency.
The employer registers their details on a system being developed by the Skills Funding Agency including their type of business, the details of the apprentice and the apprenticeship standard being signed up to.
The discounted rate (which could be up to 100% for 16 to 18 year olds) at which employers can purchase training, will be calculated and the employer would be able to pass on the voucher code to the provider that is delivering the training for their apprentice. The provider will then reclaim the value of the voucher from the Skills Funding Agency.
Construction Industry Training Board director of policy Steve Radley said: “This revised funding model is employer-led and more workable for SMEs. This is vital for an industry (construction) that is made up of 95% SMEs and facing a significant skills challenge for the coming years.”
What Should an Apprentice be Paid?

Apprentices under 19 years or 19 years and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £2.73 per hour (as of October 2014). However, the employer may choose to pay the apprentice at a higher rate.
Once the apprentice reaches 19 years and has completed the first year of the apprenticeship the employer must pay the full NMW rate.
All other apprentices are eligible for the full National Minimum Wage for their age.
The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister announced that the National Minimum Wage for apprentices will increase by 57p an hour to £3.30. This is the largest ever increase in the National Minimum Wage for apprentices and will halve the gap with the National Minimum Wage rate for 16 to 17 year olds, which will be £3.87 an hour from October 2015.
The government will also launch a consultation with businesses on the future of the National Minimum Wage rate for apprentices.
According to a recent survey, 20% of SMEs in the construction industry are currently training apprentices which is up from 18% two years ago. However more small employers – and all large employers – need to recognise the commercial value of training apprentices and do their bit to help close the skills gap.
M&E Solutions employs new apprentices every year. This enables the company to scale and grow, affording it the opportunity to maintain its family culture and preserve its success in the provision of skilled staff and the best customer service at all times.
Fred Dixon, Technical Director at M&E said “the Digital Apprenticeship Voucher Scheme further simplifies employing apprentices. This is great for growing SMEs like M&E Maintenance Solutions, industry and promising, motivated youngsters looking to take that first vital step in their career”