A group of the UK's top employers have raised doubts over the government's policy on apprenticeships.

More than 90% of the 150 employers surveyed by City & Guilds thought the government's 3 million apprenticeships target was arbitrary, while 84% want it to be linked to sectors experiencing the biggest skills shortages.

The findings come ahead of National Apprenticeships Week (14-18 March); the same week as the Chancellor gives his Budget statement.

The introduction of the levy payment was also divisive among employers with two thirds of those surveyed saying they were only a little aware or completely unaware of how the payment would affect them. Furthermore, over half (53%) of employers said the payment would not encourage them to take on more apprentices.

The way the levy payment will be administered was also called into question, with concern among employers that making the cash back from the levy virtual will discourage them from increasing apprenticeship numbers. Many were concerned the introduction of the levy might jeopardise in-house training programmes as finance directors look to cut costs in other areas.

The quality of training provision was also brought into question. There was concern among those surveyed that local providers would not meet the standards required and there was a desire to be able to choose from a wider range of providers, rather than continue with today’s system of appointing a lead provider who then subcontracts.

Kirstie Donnelly, managing director of City & Guilds, said: “The commitment to apprenticeships among UK employers is clear. However, the Government must make the new system as simple as possible for businesses. There are still so many questions about how the new system will work, from the levy to inspection and the various governance boards being created. With the entire system being overhauled there is a real opportunity to make it one that opens doors for apprentices and employers rather than puts up barriers.”