Ian Mean, the director of Business West Gloucestershire, explains why he feels the Apprenticeships Levy is 'a fiasco'.

Gloucestershire has a proud record of encouraging apprenticeships, and South Gloucestershire and Stroud College (SGS) has been superb at developing these roles.

But further education colleges like SGS are now struggling to meet apprenticeship targets through cuts in funding due to the Government underestimating the demand from small employers who see apprentices as their lifeline to future growth.

In my view, the blame lies with the government which claimed there would be three million apprenticeships created by the end of this parliament in 2020.

I think that target will be missed by a mile while the whole apprenticeship system, which is so important to the economy and the future our young people, is now on a cliff edge.

At the heart of the crisis is the Apprenticeship Levy, paid by companies with a wage bill of over £3million a year. It is an absolute fiasco.

Sara-Jane Watkins, SGS college principal, told me: “Many major companies are now contributing to the Apprenticeship Levy pot and for many this is being viewed as a tax.

“Lots of large companies are now not spending their levy and rather than transferring this money to the restricted non-levy pot, which benefits smaller employers to recruit apprentices, the money is being held back by Treasury. This money desperately needs reinvesting into the further education sector to help both with apprenticeship growth opportunities for SMEs but also to help develop our estate and resources. Colleges must have the cutting edge facilities that our future generation of learners require in order to be able to keep pace with worldwide skills in a globally competitive environment.”

The government needs to re-organise the Levy completely or scrap it.

Let me know what you think about the Apprenticeship Levy by emailing ian.mean@businesswest.co.uk