From education to employment

Apprenticeship reforms to ensure the highest quality skills & training

Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, Education & Skills Funding Agency


Quality is at the heart of the changes we are making to the apprenticeship system. Our aim has been to fundamentally reform what apprenticeships are, and the long-term opportunities they can provide.

We want to increase the number of quality apprenticeships available, so that there are lots of opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds and businesses have the skills they need. We have taken a number of steps to do this.

Frameworks to Standards

In the past, apprenticeships have been based on ‘frameworks’, which are essentially a list of qualifications apprentices had to achieve, many of which employers did not think reflected the skills they needed in their workforce. So we are replacing these with ‘standards’, which are short documents designed by employers themselves.

These reflect the skills and competencies needed to meet their business needs and enable apprentices to embark on successful careers. We think it’s right that employers design these standards as they know best what knowledge and skills are needed for apprentices to succeed in each job.

International Benchmarking

There has been some suggestion that the Government should introduce a new, internationally benchmarked definition of an apprenticeship. But we are very clear about what an apprenticeship must be – a real job involving training that will help apprentices gain clear skills.

At least 20 per cent of that training must happen off-the-job, and the apprenticeship must last at least 12 months. On top of that, we’ve legally protected the definition of an apprenticeship so that training providers cannot offer any apprenticeship that doesn’t meet those characteristics.

And all apprenticeships must absolutely meet our quality criteria in order to receive funding from Government.

Existing training schemes

All of this means businesses can’t just rebadge existing training as an apprenticeship, and instead have to demonstrate how existing training programmes can be adapted to meet our quality requirements.

For example, employers would need to demonstrate that it was a valid occupation, required substantial and sustained training and had wide support from other employers.

Our Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers means employers have a choice of over 2,500 providers, reassuring them that the providers they choose have the capacity and capability to deliver good quality apprenticeship training.

Institute for Apprenticeships

Another change we made was to establish the independent Institute for Apprenticeships, to oversee quality across the apprenticeship system. The Institute has published their expectations for a quality apprenticeship, and helps employers develop – and then approves – all new apprenticeship standards.

To make sure apprenticeship standards remain consistent, all must contain an assessment at the end of the apprenticeship in order to check the skills gained. These assessments are quality assured by independent external bodies, such as Ofqual. We are also introducing routes for apprentices and employers to feedback to us directly by rating and sharing their experiences.

Apprenticeship Reform

Our reforms, which give employers a real stake in the apprenticeship system, are designed to make sure that all apprenticeships are of the highest quality and deliver the right skills and training for everyone who wants to get on in life.

Keith Smith, Director of Apprenticeships, Education & Skills Funding Agency

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