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Investing in the Future

The Apprenticeship Levy at Hotelympia 2018

“We all have a responsibility to encourage positive change. Some people think this whole scheme is too complicated, but it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. We have to use it to our advantage.” – Rohini Bhattacharya, Head of Apprenticeship Services, Pearson.

As the hospitality sector moves into challenging times, employer brand, culture and talent retention will become all-important. The new apprenticeship scheme will help employers but how is the Apprenticeship Levy affecting the UK hospitality industry? How will it benefit the sector? What does it mean to your business?

We were at Hotelympia 2018 and were delighted to host a group of Levy experts to discuss the challenges and benefits of the scheme. Calvern James, Sales Manager from chaired the session and joining Rohini Bhattacharya were Jon Dawson, Director of Human Resources at Mandarin Oriental, Hayley Connor, Head of People at Brewhouse and Kitchen, Annette Allmark, Head of Apprenticeships at People 1st and Paul Mannering, Academy Principal at HIT Training.

The benefits of offering apprenticeships include better employee retention and engagement. Moving forward this is all important. What do you need to know?

  • The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced by the UK Government to encourage employers to increase apprenticeship numbers.
  • Employers with a pay bill over £3 million are required to pay a levy of 0.5% of their annual pay bill.
  • You can choose in-house or external programmes, and you can either use an external training provider or your in-house team to deliver the training.
  • 20% of your apprenticeship programme should be on the job, away-from-desk training.

If you are a non-levy paying employer, apprenticeships are still relevant to your business.

  • Non-levy paying employers will share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with government – this is called ‘co-investment’. You pay 10%, with the Government paying the balance.

When the scheme began, there had been a take up of 25,000 apprentices in the hospitality industry. This has dropped as the year has progressed. “We’re still in a transitional phase,” Annette Allmark said, “This new system is very different to the old, and companies are still coming to grips with it.” Annette explained that seven new apprenticeship standards have been developed for the hospitality industry. In practise, they form strong and progressive career pathways.

Many employers know that there is a recruitment issue, but Annette believes that the real problem is retention. “Turnover across the industry is around 75% and this costs around £1.1billion annually. This is what makes apprenticeships so important moving forward, it allows us to bring staff in, help them to develop and keep them” she said.

Larger companies will consist of several departments where apprenticeships could be taken on. This could include HR, finance, talent, Learning & Development or diversity. Strategy plays a big part and employers will be dependent on HR departments and L&D to help put these programmes in place.

Rohini Bhattacharya explained, “The pace of change is fast. The Apprenticeship Levy was live before a lot of companies realised it, and they’re still playing catch-up. All departments of your business need to be on board and really need to understand how apprentices can benefit you long-term. This means all departments, HR, L&D, finance and your policy makers. We need to get the message out,” she said.

Paul Mannering agreed, “As people find out more, there will definitely be more uptake. There needs to be strong internal information because The Apprenticeship Levy allows for a much better foundation for hospitality skills, something that is so important.”

Employers could take a leaf from Brewhouse and Kitchen’s book. Planning and knowing exactly what you need to achieve is key. Hayley Connor admits that they “dived straight into the apprenticeship programme as brewer training is a big part of what we do.” She said that the business is very forward thinking and they wanted to create a culture of apprentices. Brewhouse & Kitchen provide their training internally, but many employers use external training providers.

Jon Dawson from Mandarin Oriental feels that choosing the right training provider is crucial. “Your training provider must fit the culture of your company,” he said. “You really have to be on the same page and make sure that your goals are the same.” Using the wrong training provider could undo all your hard work and Jon believes that planning is paramount in any hospitality company’s apprenticeship scheme.

Annette Allmark said as the new apprenticeship scheme grows, the UK hospitality industry must share its experiences in order in learn.
Things to remember:

Understand what your company needs to accomplish

  • Communication with all departments is crucial
  • Have a firm people strategy
  • Choose training providers wisely
  • Company culture = brand loyalty = retention

For comprehensive information on The Apprenticeship Levy, visit

We would like to thank our panel for their time and for sharing their valuable experience. We will be bringing you more industry insight into The Apprenticeship Levy in the coming months.