How Co-op Levy Share is tackling underrepresentation in apprenticeships

Nov 29, 2023 | Apprentices & school leaver, Case studies, Home Featured

Louise Timperley, apprenticeship manager at The Co-op, explains how they established Co-op Levy Share and the benefits to thousands of apprentices.

We are all aware that the apprenticeship levy came into operation in 2017, with the government’s intention to help more people get on the path to a rewarding career and to support employers taking on new apprentices.

Employers with a pay bill of over £3m pay a levy (tax) of 0.5% of an organisation’s annual pay bill. The levy collected is used to pay for the organisation’s apprentice training and assessment.

As it became clear that not all employers would be in a position to spend all of their levy on their own apprentices, a policy was brought in to allow employers to share up to 25% of their levy with other employers who didn’t have enough of their own.

With research from the Co-op revealing that 35% of young people aged 12-18 are more likely to choose an apprenticeship for their career path, we decided that we wanted to take advantage of this policy.

We knew we could share our own levy, but as an organisation for which co-operation is the bedrock of our business operations, we wanted to go a step further and encourage and support other organisations to do the same.

How did we do it?

In May 2021, Co-op Levy Share came about. We used all of our networks across our communities, our supply chain and our charitable causes to determine:

• Which organisations would like to join us to make pledges to donate some of their unspent levy.
• Which organisations didn’t have enough levy to support their apprenticeship ambitions and would want to receive the levy transfers.

We made it clear our intention was to tackle underrepresentation, for example, we wanted to reach out to communities in less advantaged areas and support individuals from different ethnic backgrounds into apprenticeships. These apprenticeships are for new recruits to an organisation or to those progressing in their careers.

When we started these conversations, it was clear there was a huge appetite for this from other employers, and the momentum built.

We partnered with The Growth Company to set up our website and portal and to resource the service. It meant we could start to make connections, to seek out organisations who would benefit from the transfer of the levy.

How has Co-op Levy Share developed?

We set an initial target reach of £15m of pledges over a three year period. In fact, we reached this milestone after only 15 months, funding over 1000 apprentices which was an incredible co-operative achievement.

We’re still working hard to ensure that levy funding is reaching the right people, and we have now raised over £21m, supporting over 1900 apprentices.

There are a whole variety of sectors that are benefitting, including charities, public services, health and social care to name a few, covering apprenticeship standards such as Data Analyst, Adult Care Worker, Operations or Departmental Manager, and Digital Marketer.

Donor businesses are able to decide which organisations and sectors they would like to support through the web portal. There is no obligation until the final match is made through the Government’s Apprenticeship Service (AS).

What has been the impact of Co-op Levy Share?

Whilst the numbers are great to see, it’s the stories of the apprentices that are really uplifting.

Zafeerah always wanted to pursue an engineering career but had decided university wasn’t for her.

She wanted to follow the apprenticeship route but the organisation she applied to locally had already used up all of their levy. As the programme was one of the most expensive, they could not afford to fund it, so they came to Co-op Levy Share.

We were able to find a matching employer and now Zafeerah is halfway through the programme and is really happy with her career choice and how the apprenticeship is supporting her journey.

Sahar was looking to progress in the care sector and wanted to work towards the next level of a care apprenticeship. The small organisation she worked for had little levy to use, so Co-op Levy Share stepped in, arranging matches for Sahar and some of her colleagues. This enabled the organisation to grow the support they give to individuals who need care in their own homes.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can pledge your unspent levy or would like to receive donated funding to support your apprenticeship ambitions, then do take a look at the website Home | Coop Levy Share or email

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