8 January 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The BIFM has urged all businesses employing FM staff to lobby for changes to the Apprenticeship Levy, Herpreet Kaur Grewal reports.
The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) has urged all businesses employing FM staff to lobby for changes to the Apprenticeship Levy after it was revealed that allocated funding is insufficient to deliver degree-level apprenticeships in FM.
BIFM has been working with employers and academic institutions, including the Sheffield Hallam University, to develop standards to underpin apprenticeship programmes that could be funded through levy payments.
But the sector's ability to implement these standards through the levy was thrown into doubt last month after the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) recommended a maximum funding band that would only provide partial funding.
The levy is paid by businesses with a wage bill of more than £3 million. Businesses then access funds from the levy pot for training. This new ruling means that many businesses will have to disappoint potential trainees and face a widening skills gap because they cannot afford to make substantial extra payments needed for schemes that meet the Apprenticeship Standards, on top of their existing levy contribution.
Citing frustration over a lack of transparency and failure to recognise the distinct skills required for FM, BIFM - in agreement with a trailblazer group of leading sector employers - is set to appeal against the funding recommendation. The organisation says the low funding allocation - currently £18,000 for a FM degree compared with £27,000 for a general management degree - is at odds with the £120 billion contribution that the sector makes to the UK economy.
BIFM is calling on members to apply political pressure to secure a better result for the industry. The body has drawn up a toolkit to lobby MPs and the chair of the Education Select Committee to ensure that the Apprenticeships Standards for the sector secures appropriate funding levels.
Linda Hausmanis, CEO at BIFM, said funding decisions were hampering the positive contribution that the levy should be making to essential skills in the sector.
"Our industry plays a vital role to support excellence and productivity in the workplace. As new technologies and ways of working come to the fore, it's crucial that we invest in skills and training so that the FM industry can realise its potential of delivering a £20 billion per annum productivity uplift to the UK economy.
"In its current form, the levy is choking off the critical pipeline of FM apprenticeships.
"By providing this toolkit for our members, we are urging them to support our work by directly appealing to the UK government."
Paul Wyton, principal lecturer in facilities management at Sheffield Hallam University, added: "Working with BIFM and the wider industry, in order to meet the new standard we have put together a degree-level apprenticeship in good faith that this could be funded through levy contributions.
"Faced by continual financial and bureaucratic hurdles, we now have serious concerns that businesses will turn away from investing in the skills and training that the sector needs."