‘I believe that employers are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way…’

Personally I think that it is a shame that we feel so rudderless when we are without one [Minister] or during ‘Purdah’. A more stable system would reply less on the whim of ministers and there would be less apprehension every time a new one enters the room (about every 18 months).

Anne milton100x100Perhaps it was just because this change occurred before the big ‘changes’ have had time to bed in and because the IFA is still new; but I felt like there was a collective sigh of relief when Ms Milton took to the lecturn at the AELP conference on Monday.

At least we now had someone to ask, blame, thank, petition etc again….

Where are all the learners?

There is a real risk of September 1 of the new system being a bit of a damp squib

AELP members think that starts could currently be down up to 75% year on year (May, June) and I think that we have all long predicted that changes to everything Apprenticeship - all at the same time - would cause a big dip before hopefully rebounding more strongly.

I know we have had years of notice regarding the changes but:

  • the sector generally isn’t well enough funded to be able to invest in advance &
  • we have all been burned before by getting ahead of policy…
  • the last minute.com nature of decisions, (the register, non-levy allocations ,AEB etc) make long term planning difficult

Others have articulated the frustration of this well #TonyAllen!! so I shan’t pile on.

We have a new minister, no more reviews and no more BIG changes so let’s just crack on.

The night has 100,000 eyes

My teenage daughter always asks why we don’t trust her more – because ‘I know what teenagers are like’, I say. Employers are now paying for the Apprenticeship system yet it seems that the relevant authorities are finding it difficult to really trust them with this responsibility. Mistakes of the past should inspire smart policy development and audit - but not quash innovation.

I am not advocating a complete abdication of government regulation but one of the inbuilt advantages of apprenticeships is that as by allowing employers to become customers we create 100,000 custodians of quality, no one else has the capacity to completely fulfil this role.

Here is a classic example of what I mean.

Gov. wants apprenticeships funded by the Levy to be additional learning ie for there to be more learning than there was before they Levy, or they get told off by the Audit Office.

But the £200m a month of the levy hasn’t appeared from thin air – it has come from employers with real budgetary pressures. In the main it will come from commercial L&D budgets and pay pots.

So naturally employers are trying to reconcile their current spend on L&D (people and courses) and their new standards and liabilities. They want to support Apprenticeships without writing off their often considerable long-term investment in creating in-house expertise and training assets.

Forcing employers to silo the training that they have always done and what is ‘allowed’ within apprenticeships will limit the potential of the reforms.

Surely we want apprenticeships that yes have a strong core of transferable skills and a very high-quality threshold - but which also embrace employer innovation and investment

The only large scale, long-term apprenticeship system of any note (the Germanic dual-system) is explicitly built on the principle that the employer and the professional educator each have an equal role in educating the apprentice (hence the term ‘dual education’).

No one wants public money to be wasted or for there to be ‘back handers’ as it taints us all – but the best results will surely come from an approach based on employer-education partnership; from innovation and exploration rather than just policing ever growing rule sets.

Apprenticeships 2019

Most civil servants cannot resist 2020 as a target – it’s just too catchy. But the current apprenticeship reforms are scheduled to last until April 2019 – and our possible Brexit.

So let’s have a peek into that not too distant future and see what the apprenticeship scene might be like in May 2019.

For context we may well just be leaving the EU and

  • New restrictions for EU migrants will cause resourcing pressures in some sectors
  • ESF funding will be ending and other non-Apprenticeship funding will be localised
  • T-levels will be on the way and schools will be coping with demographic changes

 In the apprenticeship world:

  • All employers will be using the Apprenticeship service system to find providers and training
  • So no providers will be getting any national or apprenticeship allocations
  • The first Levy payments will be expiring
  • Some form of levy sharing will allow employers to send unspent levy to their supply chains or to use it to support the wages of those at risk of redundancy

Richard Marsh100x100I do not know what the sum total impact of all this will be, but neither do our Ministers or policy makers. However I am pretty sure that we will need to empower our leading employers and educators to lead us through these challenges and to realise their opportunities.

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan.

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