Peers use ScreenSkills evidence in apprenticeships debate

Peers have used evidence and briefings from ScreenSkills to call for greater flexibilities in the Apprenticeship Levy system so that it works for the UK’s screen industries.

Questions from Lord Foster of Bath, Lord Watts, Viscount Colville of Culross, the Earl of Clancarty and Lord Watson of Invergowrie in the House of Lords this week highlighted the waste of an estimated £55 million a year in levy funds from the creative sector because companies and organisations are able to use only a fraction of the money paid.

Lord Foster said: “It is widely accepted that for the creative industries, the Apprenticeship Levy is simply not fit for purpose. New figures now show that unless still greater flexibilities are built in, nearly half of the creative industries’ levy money will go unused.”

He highlighted flexibilities argued for by ScreenSkills to help the system work better. These include more unspent levy funds being transferable to apprenticeship training agencies or for other training as well as the notion of an Open University-style credit scheme to overcome the problems created in a strongly freelance industry by the minimum 12-month employment rule for apprentices.

Citing research conducted by ScreenSkills with Creative & Cultural Skills showing the funds currently unused, Lord Watson supported further changes. “One means of clearing that blockage would be to introduce new flexibilities which would allow employers to pool vouchers and share apprenticeships through a specialist apprentice training agency.”

The Earl of Clancarty said it was “very worrying” this money was not being spent and asked: “Does the minister believe that some of the viable suggestions that the industry, including ScreenSkills, has made need to be acted upon quickly, otherwise this money will be lost from the system? It is an incredible waste in a sector that is crying out for skilled workers.”

Viscount Colville called for greater transparency in the way the money was being spent between different sectors.

Speaking for the Government, Viscount Younger of Leckie said the Apprenticeship Levy was helping employers to make sustainable investment in the skills that they needed to grow and was driving up the quality of apprenticeships with 26 standards already developed for the creative industries.

“We have acted on feedback from employers in our world-leading creative industries about how they can realise the benefits of apprenticeships,” he said.

He confirmed the Government was taking forward the “quite innovative” suggestion from the sector to ask apprenticeship training agencies to employ trainees and added they were working “very closely” with bodies such as ScreenSkills to see what more could be done for the creative industries.

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