The Apprenticeship Levy is not delivering what it was designed for, according to a two-year review of the ‘Transport infrastructure skills strategy’ by the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce (STAT).

The report reveals the road transport sector recruited fewer than 10% of a projected 15,000 apprentices in the past year. STAT, which, among others, is made up of representatives from the DfT, TfL and Think Logistics, said that in 2017/18 the sector recruited just 1,300 apprentices. In its review a year earlier, the taskforce had predicted this number would be more like 15,000.

One reason for the shortfall in projected uptake, according to the report, is a lack of suitable apprenticeship frameworks and recognised training providers. It states: “Urgent action to address the lack of apprenticeships is vital if the road freight sector is to address the long-term labour force issues and the knock-on effects for the economy.”

The report also highlights that the 85% of the industry made up of SMEs will likely have less access to HR facilities, and could therefore be less able to spend the time on bringing apprentices into the business.

Another obstacle highlighted by STAT is a widespread lack of understanding how the levy works, not just in road freight but across all sectors.

It states: “STAT does not believe that the apprenticeships policy is delivering what was intended. Numbers are down and take-up low. Funding set aside for skills now is likely to be diverted to HM Treasury by 2019.

“Based on STAT’s discussions with its stakeholders, many employers are not engaging with the Apprentice-ship Levy. Of those who are, many are calling for reform, to allow greater flexibility in terms of allowing funds in levy pots to support a wider range of training.”

Think Logistics founder and Abbey Logistics CEO Steve Granite said that his business is yet to spend any of its levy funding. He told MT: “We couldn’t find anything that was suitable off the shelf for what we wanted, and we’re working with a training provider to design something.

“The problem is the levy came first and then the courses came after. The infrastructure wasn’t in place for people to be able to spend the funding.”

Granite added that the 2019 deadline, after which the levy pot will be cleared out by HMRC, had prompted Abbey Logistics to “get in gear and sort something out”.