Although the newly-introduced apprenticeship levy may have its complexities, it can help drive productivity and close the skills gap, says Redefine|BDL Hotels’ (RBH) chief human resources officer, Susan Bland.
With the apprenticeship levy now in force, RBH and its hotels contribution would be £75,000 per year. The independent hotel management group has 3,000 hotel rooms in the UK.
Bland, who chairs the Hotel Employers Group (HEG), says: “It’s easy to overlook the fact that 6 April represented a complete overhaul of how apprenticeships in the UK are structured and delivered – not just the introduction of the levy. The latter has become something of a focal point because of the financial implications, but at RBH we are focusing on the bigger picture.
“We have re-structured our existing apprenticeship programme to aim specifically at Level 2 Commis Chef, Level 2 Hospitality Team Member and Level 3 Hospitality Team Leader, in order to help tackle the existing skills shortage.”
While the introduction of the new apprenticeship standards, and the levy as a means to fund apprenticeship programmes, have the potential to tackle skills shortages – and drive productivity – Bland warns that businesses will need to revise their recruitment practices to attract a more diverse group of prospective apprentices.
She adds: “Feedback on previous apprenticeships from some employers has been less than favourable but, as the new standards are far more straightforward and stipulate a 12-month minimum learning term followed by a rigorous assessment process, I believe they should result in better trained, more confident, work-ready apprentices ready to step into permanent positions.”
RBH currently has 18 apprentices, with a further 74 having completed qualifications since the beginning of 2016.
The company aims to take on 50 new apprentices by the end of 2018.
Bland adds that the levy is quite restrictive on what it can and can’t be used for. “For example, it can’t be used for salaries, which could mean a company having to add the full cost associated with adding a new employee to their payroll in order to be able to spend the levy on the person’s development,” she says.
“This may lead to some businesses changing permanent vacancies to apprenticeship roles instead.”