From education to employment

The future of Apprenticeships and Vocational Qualifications – it’s all change

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the national awarding organisation

It’s been another month of change and challenge as the Government publishes its Apprenticeship implementation plan, ‘The Future of Apprenticeships in England‘.

The plan is a result of the Holt and Richard Review of Apprenticeships, which took place last year and will give employers stronger power in the design and delivery of Apprenticeships.

All Apprenticeships that fall under the current framework will be replaced with new qualifications written by employers and other professional bodies. The new qualifications will have a minimum duration of 12 months, with no exceptions.

In addition to the Apprenticeship proposals, this month also saw the publishing of the ‘Whitehead Review of Vocational Qualifications’. The review looks at how we can ensure that vocational qualifications are valued as worthwhile investments, enabling individuals to progress in their careers and employers to grow their businesses and improve their competitiveness.

As with the ‘Future of Apprenticeships,’ there is a strong emphasis on employer involvement; it’s been suggested that Awarding Organisations and Training Providers should actively engage with employers when developing and delivering vocational qualifications. The review also proposes that the vocational system is simplified and de-cluttered, cutting the number of vocational qualifications available.

At NCFE, we welcome the fact that vocational training is clearly high on the Government agenda, as demonstrated by the reports.

Employer insight is undoubtedly crucial in ensuring that vocational education meets the skills needs of the current labour market and as an Awarding Organisation, we work closely with employers to make sure that the qualifications that we develop are fit for purpose and relevant to today’s industry.

In terms of ‘de-cluttering’ the system, it is of course important that learners have total clarity on which qualifications will enable them to progress onto further training and which are most valued by employers. However, I feel that this ‘de-cluttering’ needs to be approached with caution. Some of the shorter qualifications that might be in danger of disappearing have real value to many learners, motivating them with extra achievement, providing key workability skills and adding an extra string to their bow when studied alongside a core programme.

It’s all about balance and ensuring that we’re all driving in the same direction, sharing the same aim – to equip people with the right skills and mindset to be successful in the workplace.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the national awarding organisation 

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