Pablo Lloyd, Chief Executive, Activate Enterprise

Apprenticeships are a hot topic in the lead-up to the general election.

The chancellor recently announced a 20 per cent increase in the minimum wage for apprentices and there is interest from all parties in this form of training as a means of bridging the UK's skills gap.

In the last few weeks there have been concerns that too much talk of apprenticeships as a means of tackling unemployment is damaging the brand; more details on the voucher payment scheme have emerged and the debate about the value of level 2 apprenticeships rumbles on.

As an apprenticeships partner of four further education colleges, working with more than 1,380 apprentices, we have set out a clear four-point manifesto for politicians to take note of.

  • Apprenticeships are professional qualifications.
    They prepare people for professional and technical careers we should value in their own right. We should stop calling them 'vocational', because the term has a less clear meaning outside the education sector, or 'the equivalent of GCSEs/A-levels/foundation degrees' because they should be seen as valuable in their own right.
  • Employer ownership is good for the quality of apprenticeships.
    • The Government should hold its nerve in implementing the Richard Review. This is the single greatest lever to improve the quality and relevance of apprenticeships. Employers are already playing a more informed and productive role in shaping the future and we should encourage this to raise standards of quality.
    • Small businesses in particular need to know that the process will be simple and business-like. That means keeping the funding rules and the voucher scheme (or equivalent) as slick and simple as possible.
    • As providers, we should not clutter the debate with our supply-side concerns about profitability; we should make the market work for clients' benefit.
  • Apprentices should be rewarded for performance.
    Employers should link performance reviews to pay increases, recognising apprentices' contribution to the business, particularly if they have come in at the minimum rate.
  • Apprentices' managers and mentors need more help.
    The real value of apprenticeships is unlocked by leadership and support in the workplace, alongside technical training. Employers should assess the skills of their managers and mentors, investing in their development to support apprentices and accelerate returns to the business.

Pablo Lloyd is chief executive of Activate Enterprise, part of Activate Learning

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