A group of 73 hospitality and tourism industry leaders have signed a letter calling on the government to introduce a 12-month freeze on the expiration of apprenticeship levy funding for the sector.
Chef Clare Smyth, Goring hotel chief executive Jeremy Goring and CH&Co chief executive Bill Toner are among the signatories warning that key support could be reclaimed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) before it can be used.
Large employers with wage bills over £3m have been paying into the apprenticeship levy since 2017 and can access the fund to support training.
However, the money is only available for 24 months from the date of payment, after which it is recollected by HMRC.
Restrictions over the past year mean businesses have been unable to spend the money on apprenticeships and there is now a risk the funds could expire.
Industry leaders have written to MPs, including business minister Paul Scully, whose remit covers pubs and restaurants, to ask them to consider the issue.
The letter reads: "Over the last year of lockdowns and restrictions we have simply been unable to spend the levy funds on our apprenticeship programmes. These funds are now at risk of expiring and being lost to the purpose for which they were intended – upskilling the UK workforce.
"We would also urge government to consider whether, for a time-limited period, levy funds could be used for wider training and other costs specifically linked to apprenticeships. This could include courses preparing people for an apprenticeship start.
It adds: "Hospitality and tourism will be critical for reducing unemployment and boosting skills in the coming months and years. We urge you to help ourselves, and tens of thousands of people across the country each year to develop either skills and careers, by protecting levy funding for one year."
The letter was co-ordinated by UKHospitality, Springboard, People1st International and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).