Business groups in Scotland have called for clarity on how to access a £10million pot funded by the apprenticeship levy which comes into force today.
Employers in Scotland with a wage bill of more than £3million will start to pay the UK Government’s new apprenticeship levy. Businesses in England will be able to create an account to receive the English fraction of the levy payment in order to directly pay for training. However, Scottish businesses will receive no direct return for their levy payments
The Scottish Government has pledged a portion of its £221million share of levy receipts in the coming year towards a new £10million Flexible Workforce Development Fund.
However, groups have said this fund is not yet available to businesses, is unlikely to be until the autumn, and clarity is awaited on how firms will be able to access the money.
Scottish companies remain concerned that the introduction of the apprenticeship levy will not result in a skills system in Scotland more responsive to business needs.
Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland Director, said: “As a priority, businesses want to know more about how the Workforce Development Fund will operate when introduced and who will be able to access it.
“If the fund is successful, companies would like to see a greater share of levy money heading to it in future years.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy, at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Whilst businesses in England have a transparent account which they can access and direct towards training, equivalent businesses in Scotland are paying what appears to be little more than just another employment tax.
“Retail in particular looks to be getting a raw deal. Scottish retailers will face a likely £15 million tax bill this year for the levy with precious little in return. The Scottish Government need to look much more closely at how they match their promising rhetoric about a better Scottish approach with the disappointing paucity of information about how retailers will benefit.”