From education to employment

Employer Ownership of Skills: Apprentices’ voices are also vital to consultation

Ian Bond, Project Officer for Apprenticeships, NIACE

There is an unprecedented level of change being enacted and debated around the current and future operation of Apprenticeships in England.

In fact the Chancellor George Osborne, in Tuesday’s 2013 Budget, put Apprenticeship reform alongside that of schools and universities as “probably the single most important long-term economic policy we’re pursuing“.  But most of the reform effort to date has been focused on the 16 to 24 age group.

Government response to the Richard Review

NIACE welcomes the publication of the government’s response to the Richard Review – The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Next Steps from the Richard Review – and in particular the recognition that people of whatever age can benefit from an Apprenticeship and that they should be targeted at people starting a new job role or occupation – irrespective of their age.

We have said all along that it is stage not age which matters and acknowledging this will give hope to anyone who wants to improve their skills and be more effective at work.

Also reassuring is that the report supports our ambition that an Apprenticeship is an education which provides a springboard for a career. NIACE strongly believes that a well-designed and delivered Apprenticeship can support people to be resilient and provide the skills they might need for the changing world of work.

Public funding for Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeships

However, from August this year, there will be no public funding for any person undertaking an Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeship over the age of 25, unless they’re doing a Level 3 or above, in which case the Apprentice can apply for funding support via a 24+ Adult Learning Loan. 

The only group of 25+ adults who will qualify for public funding support for Apprenticeship training (without recourse to the new loan facility) will be employees who are part of an Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot.

This re-focusing of public money away from 25+ Apprenticeships is having profound impacts.  Pearson has decided to sell their adult training provision to Vision West Notts College.

Has their business analysis made them conclude that their Apprenticeship business will be uneconomic from 2013/14?

Given the Country’s demographic shifts, and the rapidly ageing population, it doesn’t make sense to re-trench limited resources exclusively on the 16-24 age group.  The needs of 25+ adults must be recognised, or the worrying decline in Part-Time and Mature Higher Education participation that we are currently witnessing might be replicated across vocational education and training at Level 2 and 3.

Listening to what the Apprentices themselves think

While the Government’s response to the Richard Review and its welcome launch of a consultation on the implementation of Richard’s recommendations asks for comments from key stakeholders, – government, employers and providers – we feel that there should be more emphasis on listening to what the Apprentices themselves think.

What role can they play in determining:

  • The curriculum
  • The scope
  • The delivery
  • The assessment, and
  • The improvements in quality

They are huge investors in their own education and training however they do not have enough of a say in how it happens and what works best.

Surely, with their experience, they have a significant contribution to make to the success of the learning experience and process. Their contribution and engagement with the design and delivery of their learning can make a world of difference.

We are committed to reflecting the voice of Apprentices in that response, and we welcome the opportunity to work with key employers and other stakeholders to devise a methodology for effectively capturing Apprentices’ opinions.  Once the methodology is developed, NIACE plans to share this approach so that it can assist other organisations to inform their responses to this excellent consultation opportunity.

This is an opportunity that we must embrace to help secure an improved Apprenticeship programme for adults of all ages and one that will also make a difference to non-Apprenticeship adult learners too.

Ian Bond is project officer for Apprenticeships at NIACE, which encourages all adults to engage in learning

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