The government today published its long-awaited response to Doug Richard’s review of Apprenticeships. As part of plans that will redefine Apprenticeships, employers will be empowered to develop their own standards and qualifications to address skills shortages.

Below is a selection of comments from the Further Education sector to the plans:

Toni Fazaeli, Institute for Learning's (IfL) chief executive:

"IfL believes that apprentices should be trained, taught and supported to develop skills that enable them to continue learning, developing and staying competitive in the labour market in the long term. We are pleased that the government’s report acknowledges the importance of quality and rigour.

"The views of more than 700 IfL members in the work-based learning part of the further education and skills sector informed IfL’s evidence to Mr Richard’s review last year. It came out very strongly that training should be delivered by qualified, expert teachers and that apprenticeships should offer a broader education as well as skill-specific training. The government’s report recognises the benefits for apprentices having enough time to learn and reflect, within and away from their workplace.

"Assessment at the end of the programme needs to be rigorous and fit for context, and therefore flexible and appropriate for different vocational areas. Teachers, trainers and assessors should have more time during apprenticeship programmes for teaching and for assessment for learning, and should be recognised as professionally trustworthy to make effective and appropriately designed summative assessments at the end of programmes.

"We agree with the proposal to have clear and holistic standards for each occupation, instead of an overly prescriptive approach, so that professional trainers can focus on doing what they do best: teaching and training that accelerates learning. Every job, every workplace, and every individual learner is different, as the report says, and it is crucial that trainers should be able to exercise their professional autonomy to achieve the best outcomes for apprentices and employers. Excellent teaching and training leads to economic rewards for employers and individuals.

"The effectiveness of individual apprenticeships also relies to a great extent on teachers and trainers, as dual professionals, being qualified teachers who maintain their expertise by staying up to date in their subject or vocational area as well as in teaching and learning methods. Evidence from IfL’s recent research shows that the sector has become highly dependent on individual practitioners seeking out continuing professional development (CPD). There should be a shared commitment and strong support from providers and employers working together to help ensure that trainers keep their skills up to date and have access to industry-standard equipment and training facilities.

"IfL supports the effective integration of literacy, numeracy and functional skills in apprenticeships and believes that front-line trainers and assessors should be expected to have level 3 English and maths qualifications. We believe too that the independence of assessors is fundamental to the trustworthiness of the apprenticeship brand – IfL members sign up to a code of professional practice when they join, and we would be very concerned if providers were to exert pressure on them to take account of employers’ financial interests when making judgements about the competency and skills of apprentices.

"IfL’s response to today’s government consultation about the implementation of its proposed apprenticeship reforms will be informed by the views of members in work-based learning."

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP):

"We said in our own response to the Richard Review that many of Doug Richard’s recommendations made good sense and we are equally pleased that the government has observed in its consultation that there is already good practice in existence.

"The government is right to say that apprenticeships should still be available at level 2, which reflects what employer customers have been telling our members.  Also encouraging is the government’s confirmation that it intends to introduce Traineeships in the autumn to help more less qualified young people gain a place on an apprenticeship.

"AELP has previously offered the government a firm set of recommendations on raising awareness of apprenticeships among school children, one of them being a robust role for Ofsted in checking that schools are following their statutory duties on careers guidance.  Much more can be done and I hope that ministers will look again at our ideas for apprenticeships to be championed in secondary schools.  They will help the government achieve the Prime Minister’s stated goal as an apprenticeship being seen as ‘the new normal’."

David Hughes, chief executive of NIACE:

"We are particularly pleased that the report agrees with our submission that Apprenticeships should be targeted at people starting a new job role or occupation irrespective of their age. We said that it should be stage not age which matters; acknowledging this gives enormous hope to adults of all ages who want to improve their skills and be more effective at work. We are also pleased 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 needed for on-going learning and adaptation to the changing world of work. To date, there has been too much focus for too many Apprentices on a narrow conception of an Apprenticeship.

"An Apprenticeship should be a journey from being a novice in a role to being an expert. We support the view of expansive opportunities with more of a focus on developing Apprentices not only for their current job, but a career, other careers and for life. Ultimately Apprenticeships should instil a sense of curiosity, lifelong learning, discovery and improvement which stay with your throughout your life.

"While this consultation focuses on the role of government, employers and providers, we feel that there should be more emphasis in the proposals on the role the Apprentices themselves can play in determining the curriculum, the scope, the delivery, the assessment and the improvements in quality. Despite being investors in their own education there is not enough of a role for them in how it happens. The report seems to view the Apprentices as passive beneficiaries with no contribution to make to the success of the learning experience and process. Our experience with successful Apprentices is that their contribution and engagement with the design and delivery of their learning can make a world of difference.

"In order to help address this NIACE intends to engage a wide range of Apprentices as part of this consultation and to use their experiences and expertise to shape our own response."

Neil Carberry, CBI director of education and skills:

"This could be a watershed moment for apprenticeships. Businesses need to be in the driving seat – controlling course design and content so every apprentice meets rigorous industry standards and gets training that helps them build a great career.

"Aligning apprenticeships more effectively with business needs will boost growth, create jobs and help the UK compete globally. Strengthening courses will make them more attractive to young people.

"A shake up of skills funding remains long overdue. The litmus test will be ensuring that public funding for apprenticeships is targeted at provision that is most useful to industry. The skills tax credit concept and other funding models suggested by Doug Richard need further exploration and piloting to guarantee we get it right."

Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group:

"It is right for us to be ambitious about the apprenticeship route, which is so valuable for those wishing to enter a craft, trade or profession. We are pleased that today’s publication sets out clear pathways for learners to become skilled and successful through apprenticeships, and a commitment to ensuring that more young people are informed about and aspire to choosing these routes.

"It is good to see an acknowledgement of the progress that has been achieved already, much of it led by colleges, to ensure that employers are involved in the creation of apprenticeship frameworks. We welcome the engagement of employers proposed today and look forward to a much freer approach to agreeing the content of individualised apprenticeship programmes."

Commenting on the timescale for the proposed implementation of the proposals, Peter Roberts, chief executive of Leeds City College and 157 Group chair, said: "These are indeed far-reaching proposals, which will enhance apprenticeship provision, and it is right that time will be taken to ensure all those involved, including colleges, are fully engaged. The 157 Group will be submitting detailed responses to the consultation questions."

Sedgmore added: "There are elements of the detailed implementation that will be critical to get right. In particular, colleges will be keen to ensure that quality can be assured properly in a way that is not too bureaucratic, if more training providers are to be encouraged to enter the market. And any proposals to change funding routes in order to encourage employer participation must be carefully thought through and evidenced. We will be working closely with the government to work out these issues."

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