Today marks the start of the 10th National Apprenticeship Week (NAW). Its aim is to bring together employers and apprentices from across England to celebrate the success of apprenticeships and to encourage even more people to choose apprenticeships as a fast-track to a great career.
A big talking point for this year's NAW is how ready companies are for the Apprentice Levy which kicks in from next month. The levy will affect all employers with a payroll bill over £3M. So, for FA Premier League clubs with a relatively small number of staff on massive wages, that will mean quite a sizeable levy contribution.
In fact, according to our analysis, teams will face a combined apprenticeship levy bill of almost £10 million!
Based on publicly available figures of club wages, Manchester City - with a wage bill of £225 million for the 2016-17 season - will face the biggest levy charge of £1.125 million this year. At the bottom of the apprentice levy Premier League is Hull City. Its wage bill of £25 million equates to a levy charge of £125,000.
Chelsea – currently top of the actual FA Premier League are in third spot in the apprentice ‘Levy League’ with a bill just shy of £1.1 million. Current champions Leicester City are in 11th spot – four places higher than their actual league position – and face a levy charge of £330,000. Whilst the sum is not unsubstantial, it is still actually less than striker Jamie Vardy earns in a month.
According to our research, whilst Clubs are aware of the levy, many appear to still be struggling to work out exactly how it will affect them or, most importantly for government, whether they will actually hire more apprentices.
As part of the study, we asked all ‘Top 6’ Premier League clubs whether they had plans in place to reclaim the levy tax through the recruitment of non-playing apprentices and, if they were to deploy the levy, what type of apprentices they planned to hire and into what roles.
When asked to explain their plans, a Chelsea spokesperson was able to only state that “‘we are working with the Skills Funding Agency and other relevant parties to explore how the levy can be spent in the most effective way.” Things are not that much clearer at Manchester City, who explained that the apprentice levy “will see a holistic approach to support individuals enhance their skill set and we will continue to explore opportunities and openings across the business.”
Last year Manchester United formed a partnership with Stratford College to recruit apprentices and to develop their current staff with training programmes. Since the start of the new partnership, apprenticeships opportunities have been created in business administration, facilities services, human resources, ICT, customer service and hospitality.
Arsenal is “fully aware” of the levy but they too “are working through our approach”. From next year the club plans to reclaim some of its one million pound bill to fund the training of its first-year [football playing] scholars. The north London club says it is “working with our providers to reallocate levy funds towards our supply chain”.
Arsenal’s rivals Tottenham Hotspur appear to be the most sure-footed when it comes to the levy. The Club has created its own construction academy in partnership with three local colleges and they are currently exploring the prospect of creating their own hospitality and retail academies. They will use these initiatives to provide opportunities for local people to gain work-based learning on the site of the Club’s new stadium development.
According to Simon Felstein, head of communications, Tottenham Hotspur is “committed to supporting local people in accessing apprenticeship and job opportunities that are being created through the new stadium development and wider regeneration of North Tottenham. More than 200 apprenticeships have been created as a direct result of the Club’s new stadium development.
“Our strategic employment partnership with Haringey Council and the Department for Working Pensions will also help us understand how we can best utilise the levy as we seek to identify the inward investment projects, skills shortages and the skill demand in the short, medium and long term across a wide range of sectors within the borough. We are also exploring Higher Level Apprenticeship pathways and the conversion of internships to create real and sustainable pathways to full time employment in line with our workforce development requirements.”
From our perspective it's concerning that there appears to be a lack of clear planning amongst Clubs on how they might draw down their levy funds. And whilst it might not have been too surprising to have heard that Clubs were planning to roll out programmes gradually to ensure a successful implementation, the fact that many appear to be in such early explorative stages with partners suggests more could have been done by the Department for Education to communicate to all businesses the need to get themselves organised in time for the levy’s introduction.