Earlier this year, the FWD held a parliamentary reception with a focus on reforming the apprenticeship levy

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors is calling for an incoming government to reform the apprenticeship levy into a wider skills levy within 100 days of the general election.

In a letter addressed to Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey, the organisation is calling for political parties to commit to three key pledges.

It is urging government to extend the levy to cover hardware and expenses, to improve funding on the adult education budget for upskilling across areas including numeracy and literacy, and to have flexible classroom hour requirements.

FWD members reported returning £3.3bn in unspent apprenticeship levy budget to the Treasury since 2019.

Several FWD campaigns have highlighted key issues with the current system, including members being unable to access the funds due to overly complex criteria, and operations being affected by a strict classroom hour requirement for new apprentices.

The letter has been signed by 11 wholesale businesses – Bestway Wholesale, Bidfood, Caterforce, Fairway Foodservice, Country Range Group, Kitwave, Sugro, Confex, Sysco, Unitas and Henderson Foodservice.

“If reformed, the Apprenticeship Levy holds the key to a brighter future by supporting the next generation into work and helping multiple industries create a secure and resilient workforce,” the letter reads.

“We urge all political parties to commit to addressing these challenges in government, to unlock the next generation of apprentices and turbocharge growth across the UK economy.”

FWD CEO James Bielby said: “Apprentices are the future of the wholesale sector. The intention of the Apprenticeship Levy was to foster future generations, support our industry and create a sustainable and resilient workforce.

“Yet as we have seen over a number of years, the system simply does not work. Along with a number of our members, we are calling for the next government to make reform of the levy to be an early priority within their first 100 days.

“It’s great to see that some of the parties have committed to looking at how the levy works. We believe it should be expanded into a wider a wider Skills Levy for broader skills development.”