A leading business Association has criticised a report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) that suggests only a fraction of the cash being raised by a new levy on firms of a certain size from April will be spent on Apprenticeships.
The Credit Services Association (CSA), the voice of the UK debt collection and debt purchase sectors, also disagrees with the IFS claim that increasing the number of apprentices ‘could sacrifice quality for quantity’.
Fiona Macaskill, Head of Learning and Development at the CSA, says that the report is both unhelpful and misguided: “It fails to take into account the boost it will give to some of the more under-invested areas of the financial services community,” she explains, “and in particular those working in collections and credit management.
“Perhaps what people don’t realise, is that there is no upper age limit to an apprenticeship, and neither are this new generation of apprentices necessarily starting at the bottom rung of the ladder. The levy is not an excuse for channelling current training investment into apprenticeships; it provides an opportunity of creating something genuinely ‘new’.”
Fiona says that as long as the employee is gaining substantive new skills and the training is materially different from any other training previously provided, then they qualify: “It allows employees not only to move up but also across your business into new areas and with new opportunities to develop. The levy will raise the employer’s commitment to – and awareness of – training and development, and provide them with more control of the design and quality of the apprenticeship training that is delivered.”
The new levy, due to start in April, is a 0.5% tax on all employers with a wage bill of £3 million or more. Despite the government’s ambitions to create some 600,000 new apprentices, the IFS believes that employers will use the new scheme as an opportunity to re-badge existing training schemes as apprenticeships, rather than pay twice.
Fiona does not agree: “Within our own industry of debt collection, a number of specific apprenticeship standards have been created that will be offered and supported by the CSA,” she says. “These range from the new standard in Financial Services Credit Controller/Collector through to the most advanced Senior Compliance/Risk Specialist Apprenticeship standard. Many of our members are exploring specialist routes as well including IT, Accountancy, and Law.
“It serves as a very tangible illustration of the broad nature of the training now available. It also serves to show how debt collection – for a long time the ‘Cinderella’ of the financial services industry – is fast becoming a part of the mainstream, and due to the empathetic skills required to work in the industry, the concept of a career in debt collection is now a reality.”