As all HR professionals will now be aware, the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, which was first announced in the 2015 summer budget and will be introduced from 6 April 2017, requires all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3 million each year, to invest in apprenticeships. However, while some employers remain uncertain about the levy’s benefits, organisations’ contributions can be put towards training additional apprentices or, alternatively, can be used to upskill current workers through more advanced training.
The funds employers receive will expire two years after entering the organisation’s digital account, unless they are spent on apprenticeship training with an approved provider. It’s simple – if organisations fail to make use of these funds to support apprenticeship training they’ll simply lose their contribution. So how can employers make the best use of these funds?
With the appropriate support, apprenticeships can provide an excellent route into the labour market for people with disabilities and learning difficulties. From an organisational perspective not only does the levy hold significant opportunities for training and development, but also diversity and inclusion initiatives. By supporting existing programmes and helping to open up pools of diverse talent, a disability confident approach to the levy can give employers access to the diverse range skills of possessed by disabled talent.
The government’s new Disability Confident scheme offers employers guidance and resources around inclusion and accessibility. The key to seeking out disabled talent lies in collaboration. If you work in partnership with trusted and disability confident suppliers, disabled people will apply to your apprenticeships and also to your wider vacancies. By positioning yourself as an inclusive employer that welcomes applications from disabled candidates and is ready to make any reasonable adjustments they might need, you will open up a diverse and previously untapped talent pool.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with a disability take less sick days and are more likely to stay with an employer longer than their peers, saving employers time and money on the costs of recruitment and training by reducing staff turnover. Moreover, recent research from CIPD, found that disabled employees outperform all other groups in terms of innovation and professional ambition. So not only can businesses boost employee morale and commitment by demonstrating that you treat all employees fairly, but they can also benefit financially by using the apprenticeship levy as an opportunity to increase diversity and inclusion.
Aside from the opportunity to attracting and recruiting from new highly valuable talent pools, the apprenticeship levy also provides employers with the chance to upskill current employees with a disability by using funds to provide them with training which supports their professional development. Many disabled people find themselves in low paid jobs, and can struggle to progress without continued support and appropriate investment, this additional funding can provide employers who have previously put off training in fear of possible costs with the opportunity to invest in the development of current employees.
While some employers remain uncertain about the best way to make use of Apprenticeship Levy funds, it is clear that there are a great deal of opportunities to help support the employment and upskilling of workers with a disability, in turn improving inclusivity and representation of these workers.
The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative is hosting a round table on the topic in April – I’ll of course keep you updated with the findings.