Richard Marsh

A decade of discussion but any real progress? 

“In order to create a fairer, more prosperous and more productive country, we need to reverse the generational decline in higher technical education”. Gavin Williamson September 2020

It has been 10 years since I first spoke about Apprenticeships in FE News. (I even had a little hair left back then!)

At the time we were celebrating hitting 300,000 starts a year in England and the launch of Higher and Adult Apprenticeships. Making England’s Apprenticeship programme the world’s first genuinely all-age, all-level apprenticeship programme.

10 years later and Apprenticeships are still the focus of skills policy and it is inconceivable that they will not feature somewhere in the forthcoming FE white paper and Comprehensive Funding Review.

The key rallying points for the Apprenticeship revival ten years ago was that i) they directly addressed the ‘FE sectors’ perceived lack of responsiveness to employers which had been a focus for several years. And that ii) they would reverse the decline in ‘Technical’ education and training, encouraging young people and adults to see work-based learning programmes as a route to well-paid careers.

The resulting Apprenticeship reform and expansion and in particular the creation of the ‘levy’ created a bridge between Government regulated training courses and employers.

And as result of direct employer engagement via the new standards process and with Government encouragement Apprenticeships have become longer, higher-level and more ‘Technical’.

The core Apprenticeship focus has moved away from NVQ based, entry-level programmes for School leavers such as Business Administration and Customer Services is increasingly aligning with Professional qualifications and registration. An inevitable, but perhaps unwelcome impact of this has been that these higher level, more technical Apprenticeships have been increasingly taken up by an older, more experienced and better qualified cohort.

Over the past decade the percentage of School leavers going into Apprenticeships has fallen. Partly due to their raised academic entry points (as above) but also because there has not been the creation of a national Apprenticeship cycle that employers, young people, careers advisors and others can plan around. And without the guarantee of ‘a place’ there will never be a widespread adoption of Apprenticeships as an option for young people - as parents and young people themselves will not take the chance of leaving Education without there being something waiting for them. The current opportunity guarantee is designed to address this but it is too short-term a programme to effect major change.

Vorsprung dirk technique

So the DFE is now looking at full time education to also create the cohorts of technically minded students that it desperately wishes to see. Addressing the ‘soft middle’ of our workforce’s skills by creating a new cadre of serious-young-students of STEM. Saving them from either low-skilled employment or social science degrees at ‘lower ranked’ (no judgement implied) Universities.

There has long been a policy premise, which is that if we could only get working-class kids to study more Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths etc instead of the subjects that they currently undertake then they will become more productive, better paid workers. The evidence for this from other more productive industrialised nations seems irrefutable.

Of course it would be churlish not to wish for there to be more well paid jobs and for an increase in meaningful careers based on the deployment of respected technical skills. Especially so for young people in the more deprived areas of the country or from less prosperous demographics.

But of this is not our first attempt at this:

  • Foundation Degrees were the answer to this question twenty years ago (Polytechnics 40 years ago) but after an initial flurry of interest they have been dropped by most Universities. And although many Colleges do still offer good Foundation / HNC / HND options they are nowhere near as popular as Business BTECS or Social Science degrees
  • Since then every education white paper, every local LEP plan and every Mayoral assembly in the country has prioritised STEM skills - but this hasn’t translated into a meaningful increase in the numbers studying at levels 4/5.

So now it looks as if central Government is going to be more directive and as it did with Maths / English GCSE resits and with T levels it is going to create some form of national scheme to drive young people into Advanced and Higher-level Technical training.

And if the Government is not quite saying that we can no longer trust young people or Education establishments to decide what’s best for themselves; it is saying that they need a stronger, guiding hand.

The plan then is to ‘create’ more well-skilled do-ers and less well-indebted dreamers and disadvantaged drifters …   and who could argue with that?

To pay for this there will be incentives, both short and long term and also a reduction in other Education budgets somewhere. Perhaps Honours in the Social sciences and ‘Business’ which have grown so much in the past decade will go the same way as Apprenticeship Frameworks and NVQs – consigned to the dustbin of Education policy. Castigated for being too soft and catering to the wishes of students and education establishments rather than the hard needs of the economy. However Universities value their independence and their fees, and so it will not be an easy sell.

Tell me about the money

Over the past 10 years of FE news contributions my most read article was also my shortest and was about money (two lessons there surely) specifically it was about the ‘new’ levy and how it works.

Three years later and we can see that the Levy is producing a healthy surplus that should be enough to meet all Apprenticeship funding needs.

  • In the first three years Levy payers paid almost £7bn into their accounts
  • But they have actually spent less than * £2bn

*NB it is worth noting that this does not include future commitments, just actual spend thus far.

Are we nearly there yet?

And so the very final pieces of the current Apprenticeship reform programme are nearly in place.

The most recent incentives are driving smaller employers to use the Apprenticeship ‘Digital’ funding system and all that remains really is to end funding allocations and get EPAs working smoothly and we can begin the next cycle of reforms!

End Point Assessment functions; but the Apprenticeship Certificate has not yet become a widely recognised symbol and in many industries qualifications are still more valued more highly. The basic funding, timing and relevance of the EPA process still needs some work I believe. But we should not give up yet. I recall when Apprenticeship Framework success rates were just 31% in 2003/4 but they rose year on year until they hit 60% + in 2015/16. New standards will require a similar time span to produce great results but with patience and support they will get there.

New voices

Slightly more than ten years ago, as a complacent civil servant I was taken to task by the irrepressible Robin Landman for failing to fully consider the impact of new Skills policies on minority ethnic populations. It was a sobering experience that I have never forgotten and I was reminded of it again by his powerful, recent article.

This has also made me reflect that perhaps it is time for some of us to make room for a new generation of FE speakers. I am not quite retiring my pen but do I think that we need to consciously make space for new voices to join the decades old debates.

Richard Marsh, Director of Apprenticeships at Kaplan Financial

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

PwC CPD Webinar: Social Mobility

PwC CPD Webinar: Social Mobility

NGWLive: Aldi Graduate Hints & Tips

NGWLive: Aldi Graduate Hints & Tips

Jo Moriani added a new event 39 minutes ago

Protecting your psychological health and wellbeing from...

Overview This webinar will discuss the following: • Why and how amid and in the pandemic recovery phase supporting students to be able to stay on...

  • Wednesday, 04 November 2020 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 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