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Apprenticeships: How will the Apprenticeship Levy affect the fitness industry?

The new Apprenticeship Levy is here – but what does it mean for the fitness sector, and how can operators harness the opportunities it presents? Katherine Selby speaks to four ‘Levy-ready’ industry experts to hear their views

by Katherine Selby | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 5
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Apprenticeships allow people to be trained over a longer period, and in a hands-on way / PHOTO: shutterstock.com
Apprenticeships allow people to be trained over a longer period, and in a hands-on way/ PHOTO: shutterstock.com

The new Apprenticeship Levy – which came into effect on 6 April 2017 – requires all employers with an annual pay bill of over £3m to pay into an apprenticeship funding account. Once they have chosen their candidates and selected the apprenticeship training from the government’s Register of Apprenticeship Authorised Training Providers, this funding account can then be drawn on to pay for the training. 

The government makes a contribution and will top up the funds by 10 per cent, so for every £1 the employer puts into its levy account, it will have £1.10 to spend on apprenticeship training. 

At the end of the two-year cycle, any money left in the operator’s fund will go to the government – in effect making this a tax payment if it isn’t used.

Smaller operators aren’t subject to the Apprenticeship Levy, but will still be affected by a new co-investment plan (see Gary Denton’s comment below). 

We spoke to four industry leaders to find out what’s likely to be in store for levy-paying employers, employer/providers and smaller operators.

Fulfilling obligations and embracing opportunity

Jenny Patrickson
Jenny Patrickson
Jenny Patrickson,

Managing director,

Active IQ


The Apprenticeship Levy will undoubtedly shift a greater proportion of the training delivered in our industry towards an apprenticeship format. This is an opportunity to raise standards: training people over a prolonged period of time, with hands-on practical experience, will answer critics of the fitness business who say some training is done too quickly and superficially. It will also help the leisure industry to show the wider world that we offer a true vocation and robust career path.

There will inevitably be some snagging to overcome as everyone familiarises themselves with the intricacies of the reforms, but support is available. Active IQ has helped operators and employers fulfil their apprenticeship obligations for a number of years, and we’re absolutely ready to support training providers and employers with the delivery and assessment of apprenticeships.

I would urge health clubs to embrace these reforms and seize the chance to run more apprenticeships. Those operators who are large enough to be employer/providers should look at this as an opportunity to bring their apprenticeship training in-house: this seamless integration of training can be really beneficial.

Employers should look to broaden their apprenticeship offering – rather than just running ‘more of the same’ – and not be afraid to ask for help from awarding organisations and training providers. We’ve been working for many months to ensure products and services are ready to be activated to fulfil the Apprenticeship Levy criteria, including the future provision of End Point Assessment services for new Apprenticeship Standards.

Let’s enjoy this spotlight on apprenticeships and go all-out to attract the country’s bright young things into the leisure industry.

"Training people over a prolonged period will answer critics who say some training is done too superficially" – Jenny Patrickson, Active IQ

The opportunity for employer/providers

Mac Cleves
Mac Cleves
Mac Cleves,

Head of GLL,

GLL College


Early on, we saw the opportunity to be an employer/provider and believed we could fulfil the criteria of the new Apprenticeship Levy. Last year we gained a direct grant from the Skills Funding Agency and set about getting ‘Levy-ready’. Now both the Department for Education and the SFA list GLL as a top-quality training provider in the new register. We’re all set.

Our belief in our suitability to apply for employer/provider status arose from knowing we had a great infrastructure of mapped internal training to awarding body standards, highly qualified staff and efficient systems. All these are needed to design, implement and deliver the new employer-led standards.

GLL offers a diverse range of entry-point training by introducing new apprenticeship pathways in aquatics, tennis and libraries among others. We can also deliver the levy’s ‘stretch’ development programmes – such as our award-winning GLL Academy scheme – that we map and align against trailblazer standards. These additional strings have helped our status.

A distinct benefit of being an employer/provider is that we can deliver the programme ‘the GLL way’, rather than using a more generic training provider solution. This ensures we embed our values and beliefs into the programme content and can deliver a clear career pathway for our apprentices. We’re also able to create a new career opportunity for our own staff at levels ranging from skills developer to internal quality auditor up to a national apprenticeship manager.

Levy-paying employers who have the infrastructure, staff talent, quality internal programmes and commitment from the top should seek support (we work with Active IQ) and aim for employer/provider status.

Opportunities and co-investment for SMEs

Gary Denton
Gary Denton
Gary Denton,

Managing director,

ICON Training


Apprenticeships are no longer a throwaway topic: there’s new focus and commitment, which is good for the industry. The cost will ensure SMEs pay close attention to both apprentices and providers to ensure they get their money’s worth. And both the apprentice and apprenticeship have an inherent value, which perhaps they didn’t when the training was ‘free’.

In terms of cost, it’s important to note that SMEs not subject to the Apprenticeship Levy will still be affected by these reforms, as a new co-investment plan with government-approved training providers has been put in place. SME employers must contribute at least 10 per cent of the apprenticeship cost, while the government will pay up to 90 per cent (up to a maximum of £24,300 depending on the category of apprenticeship qualification).

But there is other government support too: it will pay SMEs £1,000 for each apprentice aged 16–18, thus helping safeguard opportunities for youngsters.

The new Apprenticeship Reforms also benefits SMEs by ensuring there are vetted training providers in their area. Previously, SMEs might not have had the time or skills to compare providers, but the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers is now live at www.gov.uk/guidance/register-of-apprenticeship-training-providers – here, SMEs will find detailed performance information about training providers in their locality.

"Employers must contribute at least 10 per cent of the apprenticeship cost; the government will pay up to 90 per cent" – Gary Denton, Icon Training

Fulfilling workforce potential

Harvey Gosling
Harvey Gosling
Harvey Gosling,

Head of training,

Everyone Active


At Everyone Active we’ve provided apprenticeships for many years. They bring great value to our business and help us focus on colleagues’ needs and wants.

The on-the-job training allows us to identify individuals’ potential in real time and adjust their career path accordingly, while integrating trainees into the workforce from an early stage enables good relationships to be formed and teams built.

We welcome the introduction of standards, and the fact that employers have been at the heart of their design. However, we must ensure that CIMSPA is suitably resourced, and that the Skills Funding Agency enables us to develop and implement standard-led apprenticeships in a timely manner. Both these factors are key to enabling us to use the levy we’re paying to best effect.

The reforms will bring a fresh focus to our training provision, encouraging us to continue to target funding towards developing people in a way that brings the most benefit to both the business and the individual.

"On-the-job training allows us to identify potential in real time and adjust apprentices’ career paths accordingly" – Harvey Gosling, Everyone Active

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