The government has rejected the idea of extending student loans for funding licence acquisition, saying it was “not appropriate”.

The idea was first mooted by the FTA last year when its MD for policy, James Hookham, met with employment minister Esther McVey to discuss ways to boost recruitment.

The idea was later adopted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on freight transport and was highlighted in its first skills report as a way to address the driver shortage.

But in a written answer to the group’s chairman Rob Flello MP last week, the department for business, innovation and skills minister, Nicholas Boles, rebuffed the proposal: “Adult learners undertaking full Level 3 or Level 4 qualifications approved for public funding may be eligible for a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan,” wrote Boles.

“These include A Levels, Access to HE Diplomas and other certificates and diplomas, many of which will be appropriate to the freight industry.

“Apprenticeships are jobs with training. Funding for the training element of an apprenticeship is provided by the government and the employer – not the apprentice. Student loans are therefore not appropriate for apprenticeships,” she said.

FTA skills policy development manager, Sally Gilson, said the response showed a lack of understanding about the sector: “HGV licence acquisitions are a level 2 qualification and therefore do not qualify for the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan,” she said.

Gilson said the FTA was aware that training funding was being made available for apprenticeships but she added: “This still leaves older people wanting to train as an HGV driver without any official government funding route besides the Career Development Loan which has an APR of 9.9%.”