Concerning lack of knowledge uncovered less than two months until introduction of levy
A third of UK employers who will be eligible to pay the new apprenticeship levy from this April are not aware of its existence according to a survey from leader in skills development, City & Guilds.
City & Guilds polled 500 senior decision makers from a range of organisations to ask them about their skills and recruitment needs and gauge their opinions about the impending changes to the apprenticeship system and likely impact upon their organisations.
The findings demonstrated that a vast majority of employers (87 per cent) currently struggle to recruit the staff they need. Almost a third of respondents stated that they find it hard to fill apprenticeship places and this is before competition for talented candidates intensifies following the introduction of the levy. In addition, 59 per cent of respondents said they intend to recruit apprentices in the coming year – significantly more than the 44 per cent who intend to recruit graduates.
The research demonstrated the need for employers to think more laterally about recruitment; despite the desire for non-graduate employees, universities were noted as the most used routes for recruitment (46 per cent) compared with only nine per cent who said that they recruited from schools and 22 per cent from colleges.
The findings also uncovered a lack of understanding about the way the levy could be used to train existing staff and the wide range of jobs that apprenticeships could potentially be used to fill. Just 18 per cent realised that apprenticeships could be used for caring, leisure and other services jobs despite this being a sector where apprentices would be particularly well placed to fill jobs. Only 19 per cent stated that they believed apprenticeships could be used to train managers and leaders, regardless of the fact that this was noted as the most difficult type of job to fill. This suggests many didn’t realise that they could use their levy to train current staff with management potential.
Kirstie Donnelly MBE Managing Director of City & Guilds said: 
“As our research highlights apprenticeships are currently a huge area of untapped potential – if their benefits could be fully realised by employers, they would help fill many of the skills gaps that businesses across the country are facing. If freedom of movement is restricted post Brexit, skills self-sufficiency will become increasingly important for the UK so it’s the perfect time for employers to embrace the new apprenticeship system which now benefits from unequivocal Government support.
“The lack of awareness about the new apprenticeship system among our respondents is a cause for concern and shows that we still have a hill to climb in convincing people about the benefits apprentices can bring to business. However, those that do know about the levy are saying it is a great way for employers to pay for training, so there is clearly understanding and appreciation of apprenticeships out there. With just two months to go until the levy begins, it’s vital that everyone in the skills sector and Government gets out there and communicates with these less enlightened businesses to help them see the huge potential benefits apprenticeships can bring.”
The report also found that over two fifths of respondents stated that they expect leaving the European Union to have a positive impact on their businesses ability to recruit. This is despite the fact on average 30 per cent of their staff come from the EU and 18% of respondents relied on EU staff to make up over half of their workforce.