Simple changes to apprenticeship levy could create 400 more jobs at the Co-op

12 December 2018

The Government‘s flagship apprenticeship levy could create 400 more jobs at The Co-op, with just a few simple changes. As a strong supporter of apprenticeships The Co-op is urging the Government to review the levy to cover:

•The cost of additional hours to cover for apprentice colleagues when they are working on their 20% off the job training.
•The cost of dedicated resource required to support the ongoing running of apprenticeship programmes to help ensure quality apprenticeship opportunities are provided. (For a large employer this could be a whole department or for an SME it could be a funded as part of someone’s role).
•Costs for apprentices’ travel, accommodation, and subsistence in relation to the apprenticeship programme – we have over 60 apprentices studying at level 6 – they spend time on residential courses and incur travel/accommodation costs – none of which can be paid for using the levy.

Helen Webb, Chief People Officer at Co-op said: “The Co-op is recognised as an apprenticeship front runner, having employed more than 4,000 apprentices since 2011. We share the Government’s vision, but there needs to be an urgent review of how the levy works in practice.

“We support the principle that 20 per cent of an apprentice’s time is spent off the job in training, but funding guidelines mean that we can’t use our levy. This costs us more than £5m a year to finance our apprentices when they are out of the business, reimbursing their travel costs or paying for someone to cover their duties.

“Our business is currently having to spend an additional £3.2m to support these costs as it can’t be claimed through the levy. “If we could use the levy to cover these costs we could offer up to 400 more apprenticeship roles.

“It feels unbalanced for a UK-wide organisation like The Co-op to have apprentices financed differently in each of the four home nations. Although devolution has its advantages, it feels like we’re missing a common approach that would see apprenticeship training recognised across the British Isles.

“Despite the shortcomings in the levy we’re determined to be at the forefront of developing the highest quality apprenticeship programmes for everyone at The Co-op to have a fulfilling, challenging and well-rewarded career.

“Apprentices no longer have to complete a generic training programme, today apprenticeships are available to both new and existing colleagues. These can be at various levels, including graduate and post-graduate options for those looking to develop their careers.

“Indeed, we want our apprentices to go on to be our future Co-op leaders and we aspire to see our very best talent emerging at the very top of our business.”

The Co-op provides apprenticeships across all levels (2 to 6) and we pay the job rate not the apprenticeship rate. There are no age restrictions on apprenticeship roles, the oldest is 68, and its youngest was just 16 years of age.

Notes to Editor

The Co-op now has 1,000 apprentices of all ages working across its various businesses including Food, Funeralcare and Insurance.

Co-op apprentice programme
Running across 12-15 months and entirely paid for by the Co-op, apprenticeships are completed alongside a full-time position in a local Co-op store. With practical on the job experience of working in a retail outlet apprentices also complete written and practical learning, work in a team, and become a part of a strong and supportive community. There are a number of core modules to complete, and 20% of contracted time is dedicate to studying, wherever’s most convenient for the apprentice. Co-op gives apprentices equipment such as tablets to help with studies that are undertaken. For those want to progress there are apprentice pathways to management roles.