Janet Clark, ATL Education Policy Adviser

A consultation on the Institute of Apprenticeships (IfA) strategic plan closed last week. You can read ATL’s response to the proposals here. Another consultation, this time on the IfA’s draft operational plan, is currently open, with a deadline of 27 February.

The strategic plan sets out the remit of the IfA, which is to:

  • Set quality criteria for the development of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans;
  • Review and approve or reject apprenticeship standards and assessment plans;
  • Ensure all end-point assessments are quality assured and
  • Advise on the maximum level of Government funding available for standards.

The operational plan describes how the organisation will go about its work and includes proposals for the support that the IfA will offer employers and Trailblazers. In anticipation of its remit being expanded to include classroom-based technical education from 2018, this document also sets out how the IfA will implement the Skills Plan.

Reading through the consultation documents, I am struck by the number of times the word ‘employer’ is mentioned. In fact, the count for ‘employer’ is 30 in the 13-page draft strategic guidance, and a whopping 139 times in the 42-page proposed operational plan. Within the strategic guidance, a section is dedicated to why ‘Putting Employers at the Centre of Apprenticeship Quality’ is necessary and how this will happen through the IfA. Meanwhile, the operational plan explains how the IfA is an “employer-led regulator, led by a Board, made up primarily of employers “enshrining the ‘employer-led’ nature of apprenticeship reforms”.

Similarly, when it comes to designing new apprenticeship standards, this is carried out by employer-led trailblazer groups. And the new technical education employer panels will also design “the content of all publicly funded college-based technical education courses at level 2-5 and ensure it is in line with employer need”. On reviewing these documents, the reader is left in no doubt that the Government has heeded the advice of the 2012 Richard Review of English Apprenticeships that “the relationship between an employer and an apprentice must once again rise to the fore”. However, while the Richard Review is frequently cited by the Government to justify the dominance of employers in skills reform, much of this 2012 scrutiny of apprenticeships now seems to have been forgotten.

In his Review, Doug Richard states that he believes “particularly strongly in our Further Education Colleges…our best colleges are world leaders and are innovating in the delivery of apprenticeships.”

In contrast to employers however, the further education workforce, or indeed colleges (with the exception of the new National Colleges), are not mentioned once in either the draft strategic or operational plans for the IfA. Although there is some concession to the sector, with the appointment of two college principals to the IfA Board, they are very much in the minority of this ‘employer-led’ body.

By ignoring Richards’ regard for the FE sector, in addition to college teachers and lecturers who have decades of experience of delivering apprenticeship learning, in collaboration with employers, I believe the Government is playing a risky game.

Without official input into the IfA, the skills, knowledge and insights of the FE workforce will not be considered in the design of apprenticeship standards and assessments, except for where this is deemed necessary by the few enlightened employers leading trailblazer groups. Furthermore, as the AELP rightly points out in its response to the consultation on the IfA’s draft strategic guidance, engaging a wider range of stakeholders, other than employers, is vital to ensure the credibility of the ‘apprenticeships brand’. Furthermore, lessons must be learned from the Area Reviews.

My article in November explained how FE teachers’ and lecturers’ felt excluded from the Area Review process, leaving the workforce feeling side-lined, demoralised and anxious. Being shut out from the reform of apprenticeships and technical education will only make this situation worse.

Few would disagree with the need for employers to be more engaged with skills education and training. But are reforms losing out on a breadth of expertise by prioritising employer-led design and regulation at the expense of the involvement of those who have worked tirelessly with learners in the sector?

Janet Clark, ATL Education Policy Adviser

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

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