THE BLOG

Apprenticeship Funding Debate Goes to Consultation - And My Scheme's on the Table

02/08/2013 12:00 BST | Updated 01/10/2013 10:12 BST

In the last five years I have told David Cameron, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Gordon Brown, Peter Jones, James Cann, half the Westminster press corps, dozens of business groups, several lobbyists and pressure groups, my friends, family, the butcher, the baker and some bloke selling torches outside Lambeth North station, that we need to change the way we fund apprenticeships if we are going to get anywhere with solving unemployment and our skills gap.

During that time I got a lot of enthusiastic responses to my scheme, which advocates converting Job Seekers' Allowance into a training allowance that is paid directly to those employers who take on apprentices, instead of straight to unemployed young people.

I have to say that it did sometimes feel that I was going blue in the face, trying to climb a mountain the size of Everest, with insufficient oxygen to pull off the feat.

But now it looks like things might finally be changing for the better in the funding debate following the Government's announcement of a consultation on Funding Reform for Apprenticeships in England.

This is great news because aside from increasing the social acceptance of apprenticeships as a genuine alternative to university, getting the correct funding in place for this incredibly vital form of job training is the only way we will be able to solve the current skills gap we have in this country, and secure a future that doesn't rely on banking and selling insurance.

The consultation lays out three possible funding methods - to fund businesses to train apprentices through incentives in the PAYE tax system, to continue to pay training organisations to do the job, OR TO PAY EMPLOYERS DIRECTLY!

No prize for guessing which option I will be vouching for when I make my submission to the consultation.

The method of using the PAYE system wouldn't be a terrible option but it already feels like it's going to be way too bureaucratic and long winded and let's face it, there's way too much confusion revolving around the paying of tax already, so perhaps it's a good idea not to make that any more complicated than it needs to be.

Clearly, and in line with other policies that have been designed to put employers in the driving seat when it comes to training their next generation of workers, the answer is to pay the training money directly into employers' bank accounts.

Sure there will be some bureaucracy, but far less than any of the other two options.

It's just plain common sense - pay the man or woman supplying the good or service not their agent, associate or co-conspirator, it's far simpler, and there is far less opportunity for the money to end up lining the pockets of those for whom it was not intended.

Diverting cash direct to those employers that will take kids out of the dole queue and straight into structured training programme with employed-status. The prospects for a long-term career will send a shockwave through the unemployment figures and make the future of this country, its people and its economy feel a lot more secure.