The apprenticeship levy: a progressive tax we should be happy to pay

Dean Royles

Dean Royles is director of HR at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, in this blog he explores the potential for positive outcomes from the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

I’ve been to a number of meetings recently where HR colleagues have talked about the apprenticeship levy as a cost pressure, a tax or, more generally, as an additional burden on NHS organisations. In a way it is all these things, however, I believe it also presents an opportunity for employers to enhance skills and diversity, to engage with local communities and significantly increase the talent pool within their organisations. It’s a chance for job seekers, or those who did not go to university (not because they weren’t bright or clever, but because they didn’t have the opportunity), to get on a career ladder – and in my experience it is a real privilege to be involved with people who are keen to learn and make a difference.

We all know that vocational training and education has been under-invested in, so our job in HR is to ensure the levy doesn’t just become a tax, but rather that it is invested in providing high-quality vocational training in our workplaces.

The government has a target for three million apprentices and the public sector has been set a target of employing 2.3 per cent of its workforce as apprentices. Here at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust our contribution to the levy is approximately £2.6m per year. Our plan is to continue to increase our number of apprentices from 400 this year to 600 next year by ‘drawing down’ and reinvesting as much of the levy as possible. More importantly we aim to use this as an opportunity to invest in training and development. We know that good, meaningful employment has a positive impact on health and wellbeing, as well as life expectancy.  We also know that staff working for the NHS take positive healthcare messages home, benefitting not just the individual at work but families, friends and communities.  We have already seen huge benefits by recruiting from a wide range of candidates. And, in Leeds, we will continue to recruit some extraordinarily talented people through apprenticeships. 

Many people think of employment in the health service as just being about doctors and nurses - and thousands of medics and nurses work in Leeds - but in addition, we also employ a range of apprentices as: 

  • Healthcare support workers
  • Business administration
  • Medical engineers
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Dental nurses
  • Grounds maintenance and horticulture
And we will be developing more apprenticeships this year in:

  • Nursing
  • Informatics
  • Human Resources
  • Pathology
  • Supervision and Management
No one likes a tax, but I am pleased that this levy is a chance to invest in the training and development of our citizens. That has to be a tax that is welcomed.

For National Apprentice Week, Dean will be taking part in a live Twitter Q&A exploring apprenticeships in the NHS on 10 March 2017 between 11:30am - 12pm. You can join in the conversation and ask a question by using the hashtag #AskNHSDean.

You can also follow Dean on twitter via @NHS_Dean

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