News - General

Treasury claws back over £300m from apprenticeship training despite small employers being turned away

Last week it was announced that the Treasury took back over £300m of funds allocated to apprenticeships despite small employers being turned away.

With 90% of employers within the furniture and interiors sector being non-levy payers it is very disappointing that excellent and often specialist training providers of essential skills are having their funding allocations cut to the extent that they can do little more for SMEs than complete existing apprentices on their programmes.

Mark Dawe, chief executive at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “It’s desperately disappointing to hear the DfE admit that such a significant sum of money went back to the Treasury when we know that all of it could have been spent on funding apprenticeships of SME employers. The fact is that 200 good quality providers were unable to offer any apprenticeships to non-levy employers after what the Skills Minister (Anne Milton) herself described as an ‘awful’ procurement [process]; and those with contracts were not able to get the growth they wanted to meet employer demand.”

The Furniture and Interiors Education Skills and Training Alliance has countered this invidious position for the furniture and interiors sector by setting up Furniture and Interiors Skills Plus, which includes an Apprentice Training Agency at its heart.  By a quirk of the funding rules the Apprentice Training Agency circumvents the impact of the clawback and ‘access to training’ rules, which means that SMEs can access whatever funded training for apprentices they like through the Skills Plus route.

Gary Baker, chairman of FIESTA, said: “We have laid the foundations for our sector to train new and existing colleagues in a range of qualifications from new entrants at level 2, to senior managers at master’s degree levels and everything in between. To get the message out there, we invite employers to attend the Closing the Skills Gap conference at Furniture Makers Hall, on 26 April.  It’s open to all furniture and interiors manufacturers and will be the start of a country wide push to engage members to show the opportunities in funded training that we have developed.”

For more information about FIESTA and Furniture and Interiors Skills Plus, please go to

Admission to the conference costs £13.19 and this includes refreshments and lunch. To book your place:

If you would like to book a meeting with a Skills Plus representative, email