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By Jenny Patrickson, Managing Director

“Whether we like it or not, change is imminent with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy on April 6, 2017. Apprenticeships are not new to our industry but this levy will give this form of training a distinct uplift as employers turning over more than £3 million will have an obligation to take on apprentices.

“I can see three immediate benefits of having more apprenticeships in our industry. Firstly, this mode of training over a prolonged period of time with hands-on practical experience will answer critics of the fitness business who say some training is done too quickly and superficially. Secondly, as we stand alongside other industries in offering more apprenticeships, it will prove to the wider world that the fitness industry offers a true vocation and robust career choices. Thirdly, it will encourage more young people to train in our industry and keep the workforce young, energetic and vibrant.

“The Apprenticeship Levy requires employers with a pay bill over £3million per year to pay into an apprenticeship funding pot. Once they have chosen their candidates and selected the apprenticeship training from the Government’s
Register of Authorised Training Providers (unless they are an employer-provider themselves), they will pay for the training from this pot. The Government will also make a contribution and will top up the funds by 10%, so for every £1 that enters an employer’s Levy account, the employer will have £1.10 to spend in England on apprenticeship training.

At the end of the two year cycle, any money left in the pot will go to the Government – in effect a tax payment. A classic case of ‘use it or lose it’!

“Some employers are unsure of the details and funding arrangements behind the Levy and it is a complex area. Equally complex is the introduction of the Digital Apprenticeship Service and the details regarding how much an employer pays and how they pay it. However, in true apprenticeship style, we must pay close attention to the detail and expect to learn as we go along.

“The Levy may be new but apprenticeships are not. These Government funded work-based training programmes are designed to give learners the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a job role and in 2014/2015 there were more than 250,000 employer workplaces with an apprentice. According to Government figures apprenticeships boost productivity to businesses by on average £214 per week. An impressive 87% of employers said they were satisfied with their apprenticeship programme and 75% reported that apprenticeships improved the quality of their product or service.

“Active IQ has helped operators and employers fulfill their apprenticeship obligations for a number of years. We understand the challenges faced by employers and training providers and offer a unique and complete teaching
and learning solution for centres. We also have bespoke apprenticeship solutions to enhance operators’ provision. To that end we are absolutely ready to support apprenticeship training providers and employers with the delivery and
assessment of apprenticeships.

“The incentive to employers to invest in staff training and development where they might not have chosen to before can only be good. However, for those organisations where the apprenticeship fund commitment will take money away from other staff training and development, it is less good news.

“We will be hearing a lot more about apprenticeships in the coming weeks, not least because it’s National Apprenticeship Week from March 6-10, 2017: if nothing else, this is a good time for us to revive our discussions. It would also be timely for gym owners to advertise locally their commitment to the new Apprenticeship Levy and invite bright young things to apply and maximise the opportunity that lies ahead.”