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Oxfordshire employers say new levy will boost apprentice intake

The Government’s new apprenticeship levy which comes into force in April, will encourage more Oxfordshire businesses to take on apprentices, according to a recent survey.

Over half (52%) of the employers surveyed for the Oxfordshire Business Barometer run by Royds Withy King and Allen Associates, said they were likely to take on more apprentices as a result of the levy.

Kate Benefer, an employment lawyer at Royds Withy King, said they expect this figure to rise as employers get to grips with the new rules and look for a return on their investment.

There are other factors at play too, as Kate explained: “With much tougher immigration controls and inflationary wage pressures on the horizon, competition for staff is expected to get even fiercer, leading more employers to invest in training and development and a ‘grow your own’ culture. We are already seeing increasing numbers of employers looking to restructure their workforces to accommodate more trainees and apprentices. There is no doubt that the Government’s new measures offer many businesses a cost-effective solution to recruitment.”

Although it is only companies with a wage bill of over £3m that are obliged to pay the levy, funding will be available for all businesses, regardless of size, to help cover the costs of apprentice training.  There are many rebates available for smaller businesses, and additional funding for 16 to 18 year old apprentices, as well as 19 to 24 year old apprentices who were formerly in care or who have an Education and Health Care Plan. 

There are a vast range of apprenticeship standards available, including little-known areas such as innovation and entrepreneurship. And if there isn’t an existing standard relevant to a particular business, employers can now create their own.

Kate added: “We are advising businesses to familiarise themselves with the Digital Apprenticeship Scheme and the different standards available so they can plan their own programme, map their training schemes to it, and find a local training provider to help them manage it. We are assisting on the contractual side to ensure apprenticeship agreements comply with the various legal requirements and providing advice on recruitment processes to help employers avoid disputes from candidates.”

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