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The first in a series of sessions, designed to provide an opportunity for sector leaders to debate and share ideas on current and future FE and Skills policy, the Great Debate on Apprenticeship Reforms took place at the House of Commons this week on Monday 2nd July.

The focus was on whether there is a need to make changes to the apprenticeship reforms. Well some 200 people attended and indeed this was a great event, and a credit to the organisations involved.

So, to set the focus if you were not there.

The core of the Debate: This house believes the fall in apprenticeship starts since last May and the unspent levy proves urgent policy changes are needed.

Sue Pittock, CEO of REMIT Training was speaking for the motion and Nick Linford was against the motion, each started the session by outlining their core argument. Moving on they allowed contributions from the audience, and opened up contributions to the three panellists:

Anne milton100x100 Robert Halfon 100x100  CindyRampersaud100x100
 Anne Milton Robert Halfon  Cindy Rampersaud 

At the end of the session, the audience was asked to vote on the motion.

Now this debate was kindly hosted by the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Select Committee and former skills minister. It was also kindly supported by Pearson.

Voting for Change

Yes, lots voted for change, however everyone has been saying that these changes need to happen for the past six months. 

I noticed that lots of people who voted against changes were actually not what I call core delivery focused. E.g. lots from University, well they would not want to change the funds or any other items on Level 5, 6 or 7 would they? 

Other people who voted against changes who were, if you like, software companies used by the industry, any changes mean they will have to change their software, which I totally understand. 

10% Contributions

Other key items were looking at getting rid of 10% payment on any 16 to 24-year-old Apprentice. This is great and may affect the rising numbers of NEET, any help to bring this down is fantastic. But more concern is that we have people traveling some from Norfolk North of England and Exeter to give a vote on something which had around an hour with Anne Milton in for around 19 minutes could not see or understand.  

End point Assessment

Next many people gave items in relation to the End Point Assessment situation. Now this is like sending the England football team out in the world cup and saying, “Yes, we will have goal posts by the end of the match and then we will tell you if you scored, or maybe we will have to wait to find the goal posts and we’ll let you know, in extra time.” 

Stability

Much was noted about change and stability after 42 years in the Training and Development Industry stability is often blamed.

I am, and everyone was, saying “keep the Project”, but not changing items is going to give even more problems.

I do not change my car that often, but I change things that need changing to make it run well, like the air filter, the oil, timing chain. I do this to make it run smooth. 

20% off the job training

Lots commented about the 20% off the job, lots saying a great idea and we believe in quality, a quality provider will do the extra training.

But it is crazy to say 20% in all cases. For a 35 hour week Apprentice this will be 7 hours a week, and for a 30 hour apprentice with a different employer, this will be 6 hours a week. That is not consistent.

So, are these just my thoughts?

No! I send out my newsletter and it goes out every week to some 3,000 plus people in the industry large and small organisations and they tell me their thoughts. 

Often, they do not want to come out and say things as they feel they cannot raise their head too high.

Where do we go from here?

Well we need to move forward as an Industry. 

The ESFA say "Our core principles", "How we work", and what "we set out to achieve" will be driven by our intent to deliver to the highest possible standards.

This means that our work and the way we develop the single agency is underpinned by three core principles:

  1. Putting customers and users at the heart of what we do.  Please note Providers or Colleges and Learners are customers and users.
  2. Improving and simplifying systems and services, releasing benefits for the education and skills sector, for service users and for ourselves. This means improving and simplifying not scraping but doing what your Core Principles say, so it benefits for the education and skills sector, for service users and for ourselves.
  3. Supporting our people to develop the skills they need to succeed Our principles align with the four Civil Service Values.

Let us look at this, it says “Supporting our people, your people are us, we are you.” We vote for you, we pay our taxes, and the Employers do. In fact you should look at this as a Partnership. Our success is our learners’ success, and yours ESFA, and these successes are the Country’s Success.

Recommendations

So that Employers, Apprentices and Staff are given stability and logic: 

  1. Let the Employer who the Government say are in charge agree there should be off the job Training, but the agreement with the employer should be how much, from 5% to 20%.
  2. Do away with all 10% Charges to 16 to 24-Year-old Apprentice Employers.
  3. NO End Point Assessment Organisation is in place.Call in an Awarding Body EQA and get the learners finished.

Thank you to all involved in this event. 

Steve Lawrence, Managing Director of East Essex Vocational Training Ltd (EEVT)

About Steve Lawrence: He works with small providers delivering small turnover £450,000 and small numbers, Levy payers who are Charities and very large employers who are Levy payers with turnovers in excess of £400 million a year. 

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