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Autumn Statement fails to address apprenticeship funding, says FMB

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World Cement,

According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the government’s Autumn Statement offers no clarity on its plans for apprenticeship funding reform.

“Apprenticeship funding still hangs in the balance with no clarity offered by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement,” said Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB. “We had hoped government would publish its response to the May 2014 consultation on funding reforms for apprenticeships but as things stand, we are no closer to understanding if Ministers have taken heed of our advice and decided to review their ill-conceived proposals.”

“Like many organisations which represent SMEs, we have warned the government that if it implements its apprenticeship funding reforms as proposed, they will greatly detract from the ability and desire of small firms to train apprentices,” Berry continued. “As two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by micro-businesses – that is the very smallest of firms – this is extremely concerning. Although we welcome the abolition of employers’ National Insurance contributions on earnings up to the upper earnings limit for apprentices aged under 25, what we really need to hear is an alternative way forward for SME apprenticeship funding. Perhaps government has decided to kick the issue into the long grass in which case I urge Ministers to respond as soon as possible – uncertainty around apprenticeship policy is the last thing our industry needs when facing an ever-growing skills gap.”

“On a more positive note, the extension of the Funding for Lending Scheme as announced in today’s Autumn Statement is welcome, particularly its renewed focus on SMEs. Acquiring appropriate levels of finance remains the single biggest barrier to construction SMEs which are trying to grow and prosper and government must pull as many levers as possible to address this issue,” Berry concluded.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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