Co-op’s Levy Share service has seen almost £17 million pledged by 55 businesses to create 1,500 apprenticeships.
This comes as over £600m was sent back to HM Treasury last year under current Apprenticeship Levy rules set up by the Government, which according to Co-op could have funded over 60,000 apprenticeships.
Co-op’s Levy Share, which was created in 2021, enables employers to pledge their unspent levy which would have otherwise expired.
This has been supported by businesses including Greencore and BT, with 35% of apprentices from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to 14% nationally.
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New research by the convenience retailer found that 35% of young people aged 12 to 18 are more likely to choose an apprenticeship for their career path compared to three years ago and for 64%, the increased cost of living has made this an even more likely choice.
As a result, Co-op is calling for urgent reform from the government of the Apprenticeship Levy, asking that the 25% cap on the amount that can be shared is increased to 40%.
Its also suggesting changes including clear georgraphic targets to be created, an extension of the time period employers have to spend their levy funds from 24 to 36 months, and encouraging local employers to work with local government and mayors.
“Apprenticeships are one of the best tools available to promote social mobility, so business must play a central role in providing young people with an equal chance to gain the skills they need to fulfil their potential – particularly in the current economic climate,” Co-op Group CEO, Shirine Khoury-Haq said.
“The Apprenticeship Levy goes some way to encouraging businesses to invest in their people, but the Government needs to better support businesses to make apprenticeships accessible to all and ensure that funding is used as effectively as possible.
Social Mobility Foundation CEO, Sarah Atkinson added: “Apprenticeships can be a highly effective tool for social mobility, and offer huge potential benefits for those who want to work and learn at the same time. But the system is not working effectively, as this research demonstrates – too often the best opportunities go to those who are already privileged.
“It is not right that so many talented young people are missing out on these opportunities just because of where they were born, the school they attended or what their parents did for a living. That needs to change.”