Richard Marsh, Apprenticeships Partnership Director, Kaplan UK

Jean-Claude Juncker Commission President.  State of the union address.  14 September 2016

 “.. And, more than anything, we need to invest in our young people.

I cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment.

…we will continue to roll out the Youth Guarantee across Europe, improving the skillset of Europeans and reaching out to the regions and young people most in need.”

These words formed the political backdrop to the 6th Apprenticeship Alliance meeting at the EU Commission this week; which I was fortunate enough to attend and speak at. I was accompanied by the irrepressible Lindsay McCurdy [] and the inspiring Lucy Sandford [].

The President’s statement and the formation of an EU Alliance for Apprenticeships reflect the widely held belief that ‘Skills’ and in particular Apprenticeships could hold the answers to many of the communities woes (and of course we are not exempt from this belief in the UK).

Growing skills shortages in the north of Europe, and absurdly high youth unemployment in the south look like a skills match waiting to be made.

However as the EU cannot easily mandate or legislate on matters such as Apprenticeship volumes, subjects or standards they rely heavily on the power of influence and suggestion to push this agenda. 

To do this they convene large gatherings of stakeholders (employers, unions, practioners, academics, representatives etc etc) which can feel like an overly cumbersome process. However it does result in the production of materials and initiatives that can then be applied to the different conditions found in the different member states. 

Indeed several tools have been developed to support the growth of apprenticeships and to facilitate the mobility of skilled and unskilled labour between member states. These include useful publications such as ‘the business case for apprenticeships’.


At the event we also heard about some interesting initiatives – such as the Danish construction sector’s scheme to support refugees and migrants enter their labour market as Apprentices; helping them find work and Danish employers fill vacancies.

This question of mobility within the EU did make me wonder how many EU citizens were now undertaking apprentices in England. I don’t think that this exact dataset exists; but the number of “Non British/Irish but European/other white” apprentices has risen from 3,660 in 2007 to nearly 22,000 in 2015. Of course these aren’t all EU citizens but I suspect that the majority are.

Also interestingly one of the most common themes of the varied attendees was the negative perception of Vocational Education and Apprenticeships, particularly in the eyes of parents.

Of course ‘Parity of esteem’ ‘is familiar to us and the EU has come up with a solution that will be equally familiar. This December they will be launching a new, annual, ‘EU vocational skills week’ to promote apprenticeships as a positive destination for those who choose not to go to Uni.  




A set of 20 guiding principles for high performing apprenticeships have also been drafted and just for fun, I had a look at how England fares against these. Overall we do pretty well as our system is both clearly regulated and widely supported; even if it is continually evolving! 

However principle 2 did make me pause for thought.

There should be ‘A structured, continuous dialogue between all apprenticeship partners including transparent coordination and decision-making ...’

So how do we involve stakeholders in our apprenticeship decision making?

Generally government(s) does lead but it does not seek to decide everything and has apportioned responsibilities out ie ;

  • employers are to decide how many apprenticeship standards we need and their contents, via the Trailblazer process  
  • the SFA must decide how much apprenticeships and apprentices are worth &  
  • Ofsted will decide what is good (or not) in apprenticeship training

Consultations are also used and they are open and democratic, but they only provide a limited opportunity for comment on pre-set options. And they are always a bit hit and miss regarding who responds.

There is an obvious logic in separating responsibilities but I am not sure it can ever lead to a truly coherent system, especially during a time of reform and change. And some voices such as those of learners aren’t really heard at all - beyond their satisfaction as users.

We have no model of social partners coming together to decide the big questions and set a common strategy that all parties can sign up to. 

The new Institute for Apprenticeships will I am sure try to address this, but it is going to be too late for them to decide on most things in this round of reform at least.

Maybe there is still something we can learn from the EU way of doing things before we Brexit stage right…………… 

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeships Partnership Director, Kaplan UK


You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 13 hours

Recognising and supporting learners who are at risk of, or...

Overview This webinar is intended to explain the nature of harm and abuse caused to learners who may be at risk of, or have experienced sexual...

  • Wednesday, 06 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page