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NEWS MANIPULATE & EDIT ANALYSIS I was fortunate enough to chair an interesting seminar last month on the subject of the Apprenticeships Levy. If you’re an employer of people, you will probably know all about it. If not, here is the skinny: From April 2017 it will be compulsory for all employers with an annual wage bill over £3m to make a financial investment in apprenticeships directly through PAYE. The levy will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of their annual wage bill, although they will have an allowance of £15,000 per year to offset against it. The government will then contribute 10p for every £1 invested and the combined pot of money will be accessible, via an online service account, for funding the cost of training and assessment for apprentices. As it only applies to big companies, it is likely that 25 or so of the big post and VFX houses will be impacted. But, the creative industries have done their sums and they simply don’t add up, a point that was made clearly during the seminar I chaired. For a big employer, such as VFX company Framestore, in order to make back their investment they would need to employ 21 entry-level apprentices every year, which is about 5% of their headcount. Is that practical and is it achievable? Amy Smith, who is global head of recruitment at Framestore thinks not. She said: “I did a calculation of what percentage of our workforce is currently at an entry level. At the moment new graduates represent about 20% of our head count. To add another 5%, to make a quarter of our staff new entrants, is crazy.” That is just the start. There are very few accredited apprenticeships training courses for this industry and current proposals state that the Levy money cannot be used to pay for the creation of courses. Of course, no courses equals no apprenticeships. There’s a lot of work still to be done here. I expect this debate to drag on for some time. 12 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 115 JULY 2016 SMART AUDIO Junger Audio will use IBC to promote and demonstrate its Smart Audio concept. According to the German company, Smart Audio is based on the idea of “investing in simple, reliable and predictable equipment that can automatically deliver audio content while maintaining the high quality that consumers rightly expect”. Input Media in the UK and the ARD Tagesschau TV news service in Germany are both said to have bought into the Smart Audio concept. “In a world where resources are tight and broadcasters can’t afford to employ an entire team of audio engineers to manage sound quality at every position, Smart Audio is the future,” said Junger Audio chief executive Peter Poers. “The only way to ensure that viewers receive a consistent, clear audio experience is to utilise a chain of intelligent and adaptive real time processing algorithms working together.” APPRENTICESHIPS The chief executive of the UK Screen Association, Neil Hatton, has criticised a new Apprenticeship Levy scheme being proposed by the government, declaring that it “will not deliver” for the VFX and post sector. From April 2017 it will be compulsory for all employers with an annual wage bill over £3m to make a financial investment in apprenticeships directly through PAYE. Writing on the UK Screen blog Hatton said: “The level of Government top-up funding proposed seems to be way different from that proposed in the Trailblazer Apprenticeship pilot. That stated that government would invest a contribution of £2 for every £1 of investment made by an employer. Instead it will now be 10p for every £1. We are seeking urgent clarification of this seemingly derisory co-investment level as it completely blows any previous return-on-investment predictions out of the water.”