Jamie Smith, Executive Chairman, C-Learning Ltd

“Houston, we have a problem”, those famous words attributed to NASA astronaut John Swigert on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission back in 1970 could apply equally to the journey of the UK Government's flagship apprenticeship programme since launch.

Having visited NASA I know that astronauts are trained to deal with operating under some of the most hostile and stressful conditions that can be imagined. Given the huge range of things that can go wrong in space, when faced with a new problem astronauts ask the question ‘is what I am about to do likely to make the situation worse?

It’s a useful question for the UK Government to consider when assessing what future changes may be required to the apprenticeship programme to deliver its bold ambition for new apprenticeship starts.

Looking specifically at the levy, change is most definitely needed if the Government is going to achieve its mission and bring those apprenticeship numbers home.

Some of the findings and recommendations of the Reform report ‘The Great Training Robbery’ would help to remedy some of the problems, but many of the bigger issues relating to the availability of apprenticeships remain outside of the scope of the report.

The apprenticeship levy was introduced in April 2017 with the ambition to see three million apprenticeships in place by 2020 and to raise £3 billion towards funding it.

Like the Apollo 13 mission it soon started to drift off course leaving the mission very much in the education and skills equivalent of the dark side of the moon.

In general terms it has not been a positive experience for business.

 99746116 apprenticeships nc

When the first official figures showing apprenticeship starts were released following the introduction of the levy the statistics were dramatic, showing a staggering 61% fall. They have continued to fall since albeit at a less dramatic pace.

At the time a Department for Education spokesperson commented that it had been a period of huge change for employers “but that it is right that employers were taking their time to plan ahead and maximise the opportunities the apprenticeship levy can bring.”  

As the old one liner goes, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” so if the UK is to deliver the apprenticeship numbers as set out by the UK Government then radical reform is clearly needed because employers are not engaging in anything like the way originally hoped.

Denial

As reported in numerous publications including the Reform report the apprenticeship levy is facing sustained and growing frustration from the commercial sectors often perceiving a well intentioned initiative as poorly executed. Some of the feedback has been brutal.

Chairman of high street shoe repair service Timpson said that “The levy is nothing but a tax” adding “the only way to get money back is a tortuous process of changing your training programme to fit Government guidelines”.  

More widely a CIPD survey of more than 1000 employers revealed that 53% would rather see a more generalised training levy than the existing system also noting that just 17% of employers supported the levy in its current form.

The same research has revealed that around 35% of small to medium sized businesses do not intend to use the levy at all writing it off as a tax instead. Even the Chair of the EEF Dame Judith Hackitt, representing the UK’s largest employers organisation has been highly critical of the scheme. Again some of these issues are addressed by the Reform report but wider and perhaps bigger issues remain.

Whilst the current system is clearly not aligned to market forces there is also a wider issue receiving less attention, specifically that to be an apprentice a person needs to have a job.

Employers need assurance and confidence that national economic trends are favourable to prosperity and growth thereby enabling the confidence to support job creation if they are to deliver new apprenticeship opportunities.

Without this, job creation suffers, and current economic uncertainty and anaemic economic growth will be compounding the challenge of meeting the three million apprenticeships target.

 27460046 678249243731 9184346641118158380 n

Currently it seems increasingly unlikely that the Government can hit its target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020, and in doing so its original mission, something of moonshot, is now looking like it has more in common with Apollo 13 than Apollo 11.

In reforming the system to meet the needs of employers more effectively, policy makers would be wise to take a lesson from the NASA training manual and consider whether if what they are about to do next might in fact make the situation worse.

In doing so, new unintended consequences from well intentioned policies may be avoided and the apprenticeship levy, once reformed, may just yet become the UK Governments own “successful failure”.

Jamie Smith, Executive Chairman, C-Learning Ltd

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

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 May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 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.

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.

Podcasts

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.

Events

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