With apprenticeship take up down 40% a year after the launch of the apprenticeship levy, Skills for Logistics MD David Coombes asks whether the UK was actually ready for the change.

Over a year since the first levy payments were taken and we still appear to be going backwards.

The latest statistics from the Education and Skills Funding Agency show that apprenticeship starts were down a massive 40% in the first three months of this year, and the trend doesn’t show any immediate signs of reversing.

A new report from the House of Lords' Economic Affairs Committee, issued earlier this week, points to the fact that there have been significant delays to the approval of new apprenticeship standards.

"It is also concerning that more than half of training providers for apprenticeships were rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ in a recent Ofsted inspection,” the report added.

Education secretary Damien Hinds  was recently quizzed by MPs and admitted that apprenticeships are still in a period of change and employers are taking longer to bed down what they are going to do with their apprenticeship levy money.

He said: "we must bear in mind that they have two years to do that with each month’s money but we are seeing a shift to longer, higher quality apprenticeships and that trend is to be welcomed."

What options are there for degree level apprenticeships in the logistics and supply chain profession?

As I speak there are no degree level (6+) apprenticeship standards approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships, with three in development; an embarrassing position.

In contrast, the Legal and Finance Industry has 10 degree-level (6 and 7) apprenticeships approved and another two in development.

Construction has seven approved with a further seven in development.

I've been speaking with some major logistics employers in the last few days, and they don't believe that education and training  was ready a year ago to support this wholesale change in apprenticeship training. Only now, they said, are they seeing the infrastructure and support coming through.

They remain very positive about the longer term impact of the levy, and new apprenticeship starts are being championed and reported on at board level.

We might not see a million apprenticeship starts in 2019, or 2020 for that matter, but the view from ground level is that the support infrastructure is improving. Once more appropriate standards, developed the take up will come.