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Comment Skills–a changing landscape In recent years there has been much talk about the UK facing a skills shortage and Brexit has only added to this concern. The UK Government pledges to create 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020 as part of a plan to address this issue and has introduced the Apprentice Levy (effective April 2017) to fund this ambitious programme. As a result all UK employers with a total annual pay bill of £3m or more will be required to contribute towards the national apprenticeship programme. THE SCOTTISH Government has announced that its use of the apprenticeships levy (£221m in 2017-18) will be more flexible than in England, funding a “range of employment measures”. In contrast the share of the levy funding for England is ring-fenced for funding apprentices and there is no clear picture of how the £76m received by Northern Ireland will be utilised. What is key to the success of this programme is that the money is used to fund apprenticeships, particularly traditional industry apprenticeships, which have served the economy well over many years. SNIPEF is committed to raising skills levels in the industry and welcomes the promotion of apprenticeships by the Government. For many years this route appears to have been out of fashion with the focus being on university and college degree programmes. SNIPEF is keen to ensure that the income generated from the levy is used in the industries where skills shortages are predicted and that it is put towards the financing of quality apprenticeships. There should be no quick fix to addressing the skills shortage. The Government is only now realising that training and skills need to be employer-led. SNIPEF recognised this from the start and has operated an Apprentice Training Scheme in Scotland since 1983 working in partnership with employers and SQA. Over that time SNIPEF has managed the delivery of some 12,500 Modern Apprenticeships, the recipients of which went on to be fully employed by plumbing businesses. SNIPEF together with other trade associations in the Building Engineering sector worked with SummitSkills, the Standard Setting Organisation (SSO) ensuring standards, qualifications and 2 apprenticeships met the needs of the industry. In late 2016, the closure of SummitSkills was announced and since then SNIPEF has been working with other stakeholders to put in place new arrangements. These new arrangements must ensure that the skills needs of the plumbing and domestic heating industry employers in the UK and building engineering services sector in Scotland continue to be met. SNIPEF is also working with members in Northern Ireland to ensure that similar arrangements apply there. On 11 March 2017, World Plumbing Day, SNIPEF announced that it had formed a partnership with APHC and BPEC to establish the Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership (PHSP). This new skills partnership will cover the whole of the UK and be led by employers from the plumbing and heating industry; the PHSP will take over responsibility for the skills needs of the plumbing industry as from 01 April 2017. SNIPEF believes that this new venture represents an exciting new era for the plumbing industry by taking full responsibility for meeting the education and training needs of those who work in it. The PHSP working together with key stakeholders provides a unique opportunity for employers to be at the very heart of identifying and meeting the skills needs in a complex and rapidly changing world. • Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executive On 11 March 2017, World Plumbing Day, SNIPEF announced that it had formed a partnership with APHC and BPEC to establish the Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership (PHSP).”


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