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Business Leaders’ Forum

Apprenticeship Levy under fire at the Business Leaders’ Forum

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By Mike Stones+

25-Jan-2017
Last updated on 25-Jan-2017 at 17:21 GMT2017-01-25T17:21:06Z

Brexit offers the perfect excuse for corporate failure: Paul Wilkinson
Brexit offers the perfect excuse for corporate failure: Paul Wilkinson

The Apprenticeship Levy came under fire from Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, at the Business Leaders’ Forum yesterday (January 24).

Delivering his keynote address to the forum – organised by the Food Manufacture Group – Wilkinson, who chaired the event, told food and drink manufacturing business leaders the levy was “ a poisoned chalice”.

Due to be introduced in April, new legislation will require businesses with payrolls of more than £3M to contribute the equivalent of 0.5% of annual pay outgoings towards the Apprenticeship Levy scheme.

Businesses will have two years to invest their levy payments in apprenticeships. Small to medium-sized enterprises exempted from the levy will be able to access funding for 90% of the cost of apprenticeships.

“As far as the levy is concerned, the only thing we know is that it will be an administrative nightmare: just like the Single Farm Payment scheme and the Basic Payment Scheme, with complexity swamping the new digitised system.

“We still await appointments to the Institute of Apprenticeships who are supposed to be the guardian.”

Trigger unintended consequences

Wilkinson warned the levy would trigger unintended consequences, in the form of compelling employers to rebrand all their training to conform in order to reclaim their investment.

“It's a funny old world where we have moved from government supporting employers to now charging them to train their staff,” said Wilkinson.

‘Funny old world’

“It's a funny old world where we have moved from government supporting employers to now charging them to train their staff.” 

  • Paul Wilkinson

Turning to the sugar levy – due for introduction in April 2018 – Wilkinson quipped: “And if you thought the nanny state has vanished with Labour, the sugar tax put paid to that myth.”

Wilkinson also dismissed “the huff and puff” over what Brexit meant. “Why ask for the Single Market, customs union or variations, when what we want is free trade. It feels to me like we are panicking and failing on the first rules of negotiation. You work out the strength of your position, view it from the other side then keep your cards close to your chest.”

Excuse for business failure

Brexit had become a convenient excuse for business failure, he claimed. “Brexit lets all of us bosses off the hook. We can now all resort to blaming it for any form of corporate failure; neatly trumping that bastion of last resort – the weather.”

Some of Britain’s media  and commentators “secretly hope it all [Brexit] falls over so they can say ‘told you so’”, he  claimed. Even The Financial Times and The Times were “still grudgingly coming to terms with the fact that Brexit means Brexit”.

In a wide-ranging address, Wilkinson also singled out food deflation, “Marmite-gate” and manufacturers’ relationship with retailers and the bright prospects for mergers and acquisitions.

The Food Manufacture Group’s annual Business Leaders’ Forum took place at the London offices of host sponsor DWF.

Associate sponsors of the 2017 event were: ALS Life Sciences UK, Charpak packaging and RSA Insurance Group.

Meanwhile,watch out for more multi-media reports from the forum at FoodManufacture.co.uk – including an exclusive video interview with Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright – later this week.

Further highlights from the forum – including more reaction to the Apprenticeship Levy – will be available in the February edition of Food Manufacture magazine.

Information about the Business Leaders’ Forum 2018 is available here .

 

Brexit: ‘the perfect excuse for business managers’

“Brexit lets all of us bosses off the hook. We can now all resort to blaming it for any form of corporate failure; neatly trumping that bastion of last resort – the weather.”

  • Paul Wilkinson

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Apprenticeship Levy

While I agree to an extent as to what Paul Wilkinson is saying about larger companies having to fund training outside of their own business, to a degree the food and drink sector like many others have brought this on themselves.Week in week out we hear the words skills shortage yet the fact that we have any at all is down to Industry itself. If the industry as a whole played it's part in encouraging and providing in house training and apprenticeships for it's workforce then surely we wouldn't have a shortage at all. It's no good just leaving it to those companies who are providing such things or expecting the government to sort it out for you because this the result. I've been an engineer in industry for 40 years now and support companies who are short staffed through sickness or lack of numbers in their engineering department. It has become so noticeable now that in so many of these companies there are no apprentices and there is no proper structured training for their staff. Industry at times, especially the food industry appears to be sleep walking into a skills crisis yet while they recognise it the majority seem to be doing absolutely nothing about it.

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Posted by Alan H
25 January 2017 | 15h462017-01-25T15:46:57Z

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