Are you a business paying the apprenticeship levy? If so, are you taking full advantage of the benefits that come with it?

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Startling figures, published recently, have demonstrated that few businesses are using the levy to good effect to address the skills shortages within their organisations.

According to the DfE, responding to a Freedom of Information request by City & Guilds, it received an apprenticeships budget of £2.01 billion from the Treasury in 2017/18. However, only £268 million was spent by levy-paying employers on apprentices.

Why are businesses not taking full advantage of the apprenticeship levy funds that are available to them? It might be oversight, a lack of understanding of how the levy works, or simply the fact that some businesses view the levy as a stealth tax.

When you consider that businesses have just 24 months to use their funds for apprenticeships before the money is transferred to HM Treasury, it’s a pity more are not availing themselves of opportunities presented to them.

Here at Conference Aston, we are wholeheartedly embracing the opportunities that being a levy payer brings with 15% of our workforce currently enrolled as apprentices, undertaking high-quality training. 

Part of the reason for this we put in place a cast-iron strategy before committing to an apprenticeship programme. This has enabled our learners to be supported through every step of their progression at work and to gain the nationally recognised qualifications they need for a successful career in their chosen hospitality sector.

We have four members of staff on front-of-house management apprenticeships, working towards their NVQ qualifications at Levels 2, 3 and 4 - the latter of which is equivalent to a Higher National Certificate, attained after the first year at university.

One of our chefs, Rafael Soldardo, is halfway through his 18-month catering apprenticeship, which he began after demonstrating a passion for cooking a few months after joining us as a kitchen porter, and we’re also supporting him to improve his English language skills. Having moved up through the ranks, he is now responsible for producing our fresh, seasonal and evolving salad offering, as well as creating our delicious sauces - both of which are helping him to massively advance his skills.

We also use the levy to up-skill our existing team members - something that many businesses do not realise they can do with levy funds. We consider training a fundamental part of the venue’s  development - not only does it help individual team members broaden their skill sets, it improves our offering too.

Our team has completed a range of courses, including ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management) leadership development, coaching skills and mental health awareness.

We place an emphasis on workplace training and are committed to providing good-quality apprenticeship training. It is a solid way of future-proofing our staff, providing them with the skills they need in what is a competitive industry. It also demonstrates that we care for our team.

For more information about Conference Aston, visit

By Samantha Brown, Head of Conference Aston, Birmingham