UK Government Apprenticeship Levy Provides Alternative To College Degrees

Posted By GoodCall Contributor on June 21, 2017 at 5:17 pm
UK Government Apprenticeship Levy Provides Alternative To College Degrees

To our readers: The following guest article outlining how an apprenticeship has become an alternative to college in the United Kingdom is courtesy of Michelle Symonds, founder of Ditto Digital. She works with small- to medium-sized businesses in a range of industries.


With the advent of so much new technology, it’s not as easy to make career choices at a young age as it once was when there was a clearly defined (some would say limited) set of career options. Some high-tech careers of today did not exist 15 years ago so it would have been impossible for students then to map out career paths to those professions, even though they might now be fundamental to our economy and the world of business.

Change, whether industrial, technological or economic, has always affected the job landscape, so what we see now is a much wider choice of careers, putting today’s graduates in an enviable position.

However, where the natural next step after school for those with high career aspirations was typically to embark on a university degree course, there is now growing recognition in the UK that university might not be right for everyone. This view has been fueled, in part, by the growing cost of a university education. Until 1998 tuition fees at British universities were fully funded by the government for British students, but in that year a maximum £1,000 (roughly $1,650) per year tuition fee was introduced.

After a few modest rises in the tuition fee cap in subsequent years it was controversially increased to £9,000 (roughly $14,590) per year in 2012. The intervening years since then have seen a decline in popularity of a university education as students start to appreciate the effect of accruing a potential debt of £27,000 (about $34,965) on top of their living costs for a typical three-year bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree course. (The corresponding debt figure in the U.S. is about $37,000.)

The increase in the cost of studying at university and the resulting student debt has prompted a major re-think among young people considering their future options in the UK. This has coincided with the introduction of higher level apprenticeships. A far cry from the traditional “non-academic” options, these higher apprenticeships offer a route to degree-level qualifications while earning money and gaining real world experience.

An evolving profession

Project management is one of the in-demand careers that now offer a higher apprenticeship scheme. Although project management has been around since the 1960s, when it was predominantly found in the aerospace, construction and defense industries, the profession has evolved rapidly this century as businesses have become more project-focused and projects increasingly shape how organisations perform and succeed.

Standardized project management qualifications have been available through organizations such as the Project Management Institute and Association for Project Management since the 1980s, but they too have evolved and developed into internationally recognized accreditations.

Indeed, in the UK, a Royal Charter was granted to the APM in December 2016, which means project management is now a profession with chartered status – putting it on a par with the accountancy, law and engineering professions with their associated rigorous training and continuing professional development.

So degree level qualifications, along with professional recognition and, potentially, chartered status can now be achieved through a Project Management Apprentice scheme without any cost to the apprentice. This offers the opportunity to develop a well-recognized professional skill without requiring a loan and accruing student debt – in fact, the apprentice will be earning money and gaining invaluable workplace experience while developing their skills.

How has this opportunity come about?

The UK government has committed to improving business productivity by investing in skills and training. To this end it plans to increase the quantity and quality of apprenticeships available to young people. This plan is supported by an Apprenticeship Levy to encourage employers to provide high quality training.

The Apprenticeship Levy came into force in April 2017 and is charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s salary bill where that is greater than £3 million/year. This means, in practise that it will only be paid by around 2% of organisations but it is nevertheless expected to raise £3 billion/year for training young people.

These large businesses can offset the amount of tax due through this levy by paying for the training of apprentices in their organizations.

The benefits

The UK government’s new Apprenticeship Levy has provided an opportunity for school leavers (aged 18+) to embark on a career in project management with the potential for degree-equivalent qualifications without incurring any of the student debt of a university degree course. Apprentices learn a range of project management skills such as leadership, communication, budgeting and planning.

Employers benefit from improved delivery of projects, increased productivity and securing bright, enthusiastic staff in a cost-effective way with the added advantage of the lower staff turnover typical of apprentices.

Project management – career opportunities for everyone

So if a career in engineering or IT, tourism or healthcare, high-tech design or events organization appeals to you, then you might find project management is the ideal profession. These are just a few of the industries that require skilled project managers because projects are at the heart of business today. Better still, you won’t need to get into debt to secure those vital qualifications.

GoodCall Contributor

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