New survey shows retail businesses and workers are failing to grasp the Apprenticeship Levy opportunity


New research has shown that large numbers of employees and businesses in the retail industry still know nothing about the Apprenticeship Levy suggesting that the entire sector is simply not grasping the opportunities of the new training initiative.

According to independent research commissioned by Alliance Manchester Business School1, 50% of employers and 62% of employees know nothing about the Apprenticeship Levy.

The YouGov survey also revealed that nearly one in three GB retail businesses (31%) are worried about maintaining quality teams in the next two years. Yet findings also indicate that many businesses are doing little to improve staff retention.

Nearly half of British retail businesses (47%) admitted to offering no formal professional development for employees despite 74% of employees in the sector saying quality training is an important factor when deciding whether to leave a job.

This comes as statistics show UK plc is still lagging behind its G7 counterparts in productivity, something the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) suggests is down to poor management training. Previous research by the CMI found that businesses with effective management and leadership programmes are on average 32% more productive2.

Dr David Lowe, Programme Director, MSc Management Practice, Alliance Manchester Business School said: “This survey clearly shows that the limited awareness of the Apprenticeship Levy spans the entire workplace, with employees as well as business decision makers knowing very little about it and therefore the opportunities it offers.

“On one hand employers are not presenting professional development options to staff while workers are likewise not approaching their employers for the opportunity to complete management programmes because they either don’t know it’s a possibility, or don’t think their company would support it. Meanwhile GB is continuing to miss out on the growth opportunity provided by a highly skilled management force.”

Of the employers that are aware of the scheme, 39% believe it is an underutilised training opportunity but more than a third of businesses that offer formal training (35%) report that it has made no difference to the training they offer.

One factor that could explain the lack of engagement, could be a perceived cost barrier. Nearly two thirds (62%) of employers don’t offer external training to staff as they believe the cost is prohibitive. This is despite most businesses qualifying for either fully or part funded apprenticeships via the Levy.

Dr Lowe continued: “If maintaining a quality team is really such a threat to business as leaders are telling us and leaders want to increase productivity, it is essential that this lack of formal development across businesses is addressed. Businesses must take the need to upskill their team seriously.

“Quality leadership development is an excellent way to supplement the skills of individuals with talent, technical ability or industry know-how, with those of quality management which will ultimately reap results for the business. The Apprenticeship Levy is ready and waiting to alleviate skills, retention and productivity issues for business, but leaders need to act now to join the dots.”

The Apprenticeship Levy is an automatic payment taken from all UK businesses with a wage bill of more than £3m per year. The funds are then available for two years to be spent on apprenticeship training from entry level through to master’s degree level.

Alliance Manchester Business School’s level 7 apprenticeships include an MSc Management Practice and an MBA option both suitable for senior leaders and rising stars. Levy paying businesses can access the courses on a fully funded basis with SME’s and other non-levy paying businesses paying just 10% of the course fees. Find out more at