12 October 2017

Data released today by the Department for Education shows a massive 61% drop in the number of new apprentices starting their programmes in the 3 months since changes to apprenticeship funding were introduced in May 2017.

The same reports notes that there was a surge in the 3 months leading up to the funding changes, where apprenticeship starts increased by 47% compared to the same period in the previous year.

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy

The apprenticeship levy was introduced for the very largest companies in May this year.  Much more importantly for small and micro businesses, May also saw the introduction of new mandatory cash contributions of 10% of the cost of the apprenticeship training programme, about £900 per apprentice for hairdressing and barbering, unless they were taking on 16-18 year olds.  The NHBF successfully campaigned against the government’s original plan to force small businesses to pay 30% of the cost.

The introduction of new Trailblazer apprenticeship standards for hair and beauty 

In our sector, May also saw the introduction of new Trailblazer apprenticeship standards for hair professionals, covering hairdressing and barbering at level 2.  Despite huge support from employers, who have welcomed the more rigorous standards, some training providers are nervous about starting on new standards and the additional challenge of preparing learners for the tough new, independently assessed, end-point assessments, similar to a trade test.

Hilary Hall, NHBF’s chief executive said, “Worries about new standards will have contributed to the drop, but the NHBF has consistently warned that changes to apprenticeship funding for small and micro businesses – who make up the vast majority of employers in our sector – would lead to a catastrophic fall in take-up for apprenticeships.

Businesses are facing a raft of increasing employment costs from the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, plus pensions auto-enrolment and now compulsory cash contributions for apprenticeships, all coming at a time when our sector faces increasing competition and the economic climate is increasingly uncertain.  We strongly urge the government to re-think its policy on apprenticeship funding and provide more support for small and micro businesses.”