The Apprenticeship Levy: The opportunity for UK businesses

Stefano Capaldo explains exactly what the Apprenticeship Levy is and how it will affect businesses of all sizes.

Few businesses would turn down the chance to hire or upskill employees at a fraction of the current cost. In fact, this opportunity is available from as early as this month thanks to new legislation. From April 6th 2017 the funding of apprenticeships will be revolutionised as government introduces the Apprenticeship Levy.

Government is set to contribute 90 per cent of the cost of an apprentice for your business, including training and recruitment costs. This means firms can overhaul how they recruit and train staff to make your business more competitive. But where do you start? Firebrand, a leading provider of accelerated training and an established apprenticeship provider, is here to explain the opportunity for businesses of all sizes.


Apprenticeships are understood to bring benefits for businesses and employees by combining working, learning and earning. Through an apprenticeship, businesses can bring in fresh, loyal staff who can boost productivity, which is crucial for small businesses who are limited in their recruitment and training budgets. Data from the National Apprenticeship Service reveals that apprenticeships boost productivity to businesses by on average £214 per week. Yet, apprenticeships aren’t just for new staff. Businesses have already found that apprenticeships enable businesses to grow their skills base resulting in increased profits, lower prices and better products.

The new Levy means that now UK-based employers with a salary bill of over £3 million must invest 0.5 per cent of this figure in hiring apprentices or developing existing staff. This cash will be transferred to an Apprenticeships Service account, but if it’s not used it will be permanently lost. This is a huge opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted by employers. Yet, according to recent City and Skills Group research, a third of employers liable to pay the new Apprenticeship Levy aren’t even aware of its existence and therefore could be losing out on this money. Not only are larger employers at risk of not making the most of this opportunity, but small businesses, who will now benefit from more affordable apprenticeships also need to pay attention. For companies of all sizes how you make the most of this opportunity is vital.


Apprenticeships are a great way for businesses like yours to ensure they are training employees in the skills required for your specific company. This is why apprenticeship participation has reached a record high. With training schemes becoming more affordable with the Levy introduction, it is expected that the popularity of apprentices will only increase amongst small businesses. After all, the National Apprenticeship Service data shows nine out of ten employers find apprenticeships deliver for them, whilst 75 per cent report that apprenticeships helped their business improve the quality of their product or service. But, where should you focus your Levy spend?

Forward-thinking companies are using the Levy to plug gaps in their current business needs. For example, a total of 94 per cent of firms believe IT security is important, but only 56 per cent have a strategy in place to deal with it, according to a study hot off the press from the Institute of Directors and Barclays. The Levy provides a huge opportunity for businesses to boost their cyber security workforce with little to no cost for the employers themselves.

Why cyber security?

Cyber security is a real and current threat to businesses in all sectors and of all sizes. Companies rely more and more on online and digital skills to maintain everyday business. Yet, the importance of cyber security has been lost on general industry for many years. Now it’s all about playing catch up. Yet, there aren’t enough people that really understand cyber threats and are trained in how to both protect companies from them and respond to attacks. This is not just a UK problem. There will be an estimated worldwide shortage of 1.5 million cyber-security professionals by 2020. If there aren’t enough experts to recruit, the Levy can help your business to build its own.

Firebrand is the pioneer of five cyber-security apprenticeship programmes that are now ready to fill crucial roles left vacant by the skills gap. By using the Levy in this way UK firms can leverage apprenticeships to overhaul how they recruit and train their existing teams to become IT security professionals.

How does it work?

Firebrand is the first UK training to deliver the new Cyber Security Apprenticeship Standards. Apprenticeships offer both entry-level and established IT professionals the opportunity to build their IT knowledge and enhance their skills through accelerated training in a real-world job.

Unlike other programmes, Firebrand apprentices aren’t on day release – they’re a full-time employee. The programme includes up to 18 days intense, residential training throughout the year. Between these training weeks, the employer can focus on giving the apprentice the best work experience possible.

For businesses the training ensures their level of preparedness in case of a cyber-attack is increased, with the right staff sharing the right skills whatever your sector or workforce size.

With the launch of the Levy, huge businesses opportunities exists – now all you have to decide is how will you accelerate your apprenticeship journey?

To find out more about accelerated apprenticeship schemes, go to

Further reading on apprentices

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Apprenticeship Levy

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