Making the case for high quality apprenticeships

With recent figures suggesting that the number of people starting apprenticeships has fallen by almost 60% since the Apprenticeship Levy came into effect in April this year, it’s more important than ever for UNISON branches to understand the issues and make the case to employers.

National learning and workforce development organisers Jon Tennison and Oreleo Du Cran have been touring the regions with a roadshow designed to help branches and organisers do just that.

At events in Newcastle, Taunton, Leeds and Birmingham Jon and Oreleo explained the requirements of the Levy and how UNISON can make the case for high quality apprenticeships.

The Apprenticeship Levy affects employers with a payroll of over £3million – which includes a large number of employers where UNISON organises. These employers must pay the Levy at a rate of 0.5% of payroll for the amount above £3million. But this can be recouped to cover the cost of training for apprentices – which presents an ideal opportunity for UNISON to get involved.

UNISON branches can negotiate for improvements to apprentices’ pay, terms and conditions, and to their training. And UNISON can also get involved in mentoring schemes for apprentices.

There are already some great initiatives in place to support apprentices. At the Taunton event, the group heard from members of the Poole apprenticeship network and from other apprentices in the region.

UNISON has developed a range of resources to help branches support apprentices, including the Apprenticeships Toolkit. This guide is set out in a tabbed format that’s easy to navigate and includes advice on negotiating and bargaining, the apprenticeship levy, apprentices’ pay, health and safety, training, mentoring, and more. You can order copies by contacting

UNISON branch officers, activists, or members who wish to know more about the apprenticeship levy and its requirements can complete our e-note on our online learning site (you will need to register if you haven’t used this before).

Screenshot of apprenticeships e-note

Photographs © Jess Hurd/