Some retailers estimate they could create up to 1000 new apprenticeships each if the Apprenticeship Levy system was reformed, according to the latest findings by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which were published ahead of today’s APPG on Apprenticeships' five-year review of the levy.

The survey found that: 95% of respondents said the system needs change; two-thirds of respondents say more than 40% of their levy funds go unspent; and individual retailers have lost up to £12m per company in unspent levy funds since 2017.

According to the BRC, apprenticeships are crucial for employees and businesses, but the current system is inadequate, inflexible, and does not support essential courses that are needed for a thriving retail industry. 

The BRC and its members are calling on the Government to make the levy more flexible in order to: fund high-quality pre-employment courses to help potential apprentices reach the required level to begin a full apprenticeship; allow apprenticeship funding to cover some costs associated with hiring an apprentice; provide high-quality short courses, including functional and digital skills, to allow existing employees to upskill or transition to new roles, where a full apprenticeship is not necessary; and allow levy-payers in devolved nations to directly access the funds they are being compelled to pay.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, says: “It is crystal clear that the Apprenticeship Levy system is not fit for purpose, and in desperate need of reform. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are being wasted every month. But this is not just a financial issue, it represents missed employment opportunities, missed training, and missed career progression.

“Retailers want to invest in a higher-skilled, more productive, and better paid workforce. They want to create more opportunities and contribute to local communities across the country. However, this broken system is holding them back. If Government is serious about its Levelling Up agenda, the levy must be made more flexible so retailers can use the funds for high-quality pre-employment courses, short, in-work developmental courses, and to cover other costs related to training their people.”