Britain Opens Consultation on Apprenticeship Levy for Business

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government will ask businesses for their views on a planned apprenticeship levy designed to get large U.K. employers investing in younger workers.

As part of the government’s commitment to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, new industry standards are also being published. Starting in September, government departments will be required to consider a company’s offer to apprentices when awarding contracts of more than 10 million pounds to bidders, the prime minister’s office said in a statement Friday.

Low-skills investment has been damaging U.K. productivity, which lags behind all other major Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. The need to close the productivity gap was highlighted in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s summer budget. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy, expected to come into force in April 2017, will see the U.K. join more than 50 other countries in requiring employers to co-fund training. The consultation closes Oct. 2.

“For too long, U.K. businesses have invested too little in developing their employees’ skills to meet the demands of a competitive, global market,” Skills Minister Nick Boles said. “The apprenticeship levy will ensure that businesses invest in skills and training and will act as a much needed shot in the arm for the country’s productivity.”