Pressure is mounting for the government to reform the apprenticeships system, following recent apprenticeship levy statistics.
Business groups, including the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), are urging the government to address ongoing problems with the levy.
Apprenticeship starts were down 25% for the 7 months to February 2018 compared with the previous year, according to statistics from the Department for Education.
Seamus Nevin, head of policy research at the IoD, said that "while the motivation behind the policy is laudable, the execution is flawed".
He suggested that the system could be reformed by giving businesses more time and flexibility when using levy funding.
Jane Gratton, head of skills at the BCC , also saw inflexibility as one of the main problems with the levy, which has felt "more like a tax" for larger firms.
Meanwhile, she said the changes to apprenticeships have only "added to the barriers, complexity and cost of recruiting and training staff" for SMEs.
"There is consensus across the UK business community that the levy needs reform, yet our calls continue to go unanswered.
"We are not asking for a complete overhaul - everyone wants this system to work better.
"Each month the number of apprenticeships is falling, so now has to be the time for government to work with business and training providers to sort things out."
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