The government’s latest proposal for a new apprenticeship scheme has been branded “just another payroll tax” that “will not deliver” for the VFX and post sector.
The chief executive of UK Screen, Neil Hatton, criticised the Apprenticeship Levy scheme that sets out proposals to make it compulsory for all employers with an annual wage bill over £3m to invest in apprenticeships directly through PAYE (Pay As You Earn) from April next year.
UK Screen is conducting a survey to establish how many facilities might have to pay the levy. With many post firms spending 50% of revenue on wages, those with a higher turnover of £6m or more could be eligible.
Current proposals state that the money cannot be used to pay for the creation of training courses. There is concern that there may not be any direct benefit to the broadcast industry as specific apprenticeship courses are not commonplace.
The levy will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of a company’s annual wage bill, although firms will have an allowance of £15,000 a year to offset against it.
The government will then contribute 10p for every £1 invested and the combined sum will be accessible, via an online service account, for funding the cost of training and assessment for apprentices.
Hatton argued that more needs to be done to encourage the creation of training courses and described the government’s intended 10% contribution as “derisory”.
“The level of government top-up funding proposed seems to be way different from that proposed in the Trailblazer Apprenticeship pilot,” said Hatton. “That stated that government would invest a contribution of £2 for every £1 of investment made by an employer. The consortia of VFX employers that developed two recently accredited courses spent considerable time and resource in that tortuous process. We are seeking urgent clarification of this seemingly derisory co-investment level as it completely blows any previous return-on-investment predictions out of the water.”
Companies with an annual wage bill of less than £3m will not have to pay the levy but can still access the fund. However, it is currently not clear what further financial contribution, if any, the government will make to their funds.
The manager of a Soho post facility said: “Many of us will be paying the levy but it’s difficult to see what training we can use to take advantage of our share of the pot. The upshot is that we’ll be paying twice: once for formal training that doesn’t exist, and again for the informal training that we already do as an industry.”
The government is due to release further information about the Apprenticeship Levy in June.