The government’s decision to scale back funding for over-25 apprenticeships could damage adult employment opportunities, HR directors and employer groups have warned.
An HR professional in the hospitality sector previously told Personnel Today that when they applied for funding for over-25 apprentices they were informed the Learning and Skills Council’s policy for this financial year was that no funding was available unless those hired came from a small “priority group” – including women returners, the disabled and those with no other level 2 qualifications.
But the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) insisted some funding was still available but would only be given out once apprentices in the priority group had received funding. The spokeswoman could not state how much funding would be left over as this depended on the level of demand from the priority group.
Jonathan Cawthra, group resources director at Affinity Sutton housing association, warned if funding was scaled back companies would be put off hiring over-25 apprentices despite the benefits they could bring to a scheme.
He said: “Employers are trying to make ends meet as best we can and turning down opportunities to get funding is something we tend not to do. I am sure companies will stop taking on the over-25s.
“[This policy] seems to be flying in the face of the growing trend to avoid discrimination against older workers.”
Cawthra added apprenticeship schemes worked best when there was “a balance” of ages and backgrounds, and this policy could damage that.
Rachel Krys, campaign director for the Employers Forum on Age, agreed that limiting the funding could encourage employers to turn away from adult apprenticeships.
“Funding provision directly affects access to training. There’s no incentive to train anyone if you are not getting funding for it,” she said. “I understand there is a need to prioritise funding but employers need to create work opportunities for all. Employers don’t want to restrict access to employment because of age.
“To limit funding so strictly on age is wrong. We need to open up opportunities not limit them on age.”
Meanwhile, Lee Hopley, senior economist at manufacturing group EEF, called for the government to clarify funding provisions for training programmes going forward.
She said: “Clearly there’s some pressure on public finances but a lack of clarification over the future of some programmes is not helpful for employers planning training for the future.”
Personnel Today revealed last week that the CBI will call on the government to stop the £1,000 subsidy for employers hiring the long-term unemployed, and give it instead to those taking on apprentices.