The CBI has launched a report 'Getting Apprenticeships Right: Next Steps'. The CBI report recommends that the Government must give the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfA renamed as the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education today (31 Jan) to reflect their responsibility for both Apprenticeships and T - Levels) the independence and clout it needs to reform and regulate the English skills system.
Key report recommendations from the 'Getting Apprenticeships Right: Next Steps' include:
- Government making clear that the IfA is the principal body for vocational skills in England with the clout to hold policymakers and the skills sector to account
- The IfA must take further steps to speed up the apprenticeship standards approval process so that businesses can start using them
- With employer levy funds due to start expiring from April 2019, the Government must urgently set up an appeals system that gives employers longer to spend their money where apprenticeship standards remain in development
- With the IfA assuming responsibility for T-levels and higher T-levels, it should set out a clear vision of how they will fit in the skills system, giving employers and the public greater confidence in them.
John Cope, CBI Head of Education and Skills policy, said:
“This business-backed blueprint needs to be taken seriously to make sure the English skills system supports, rather than frustrates, employers offering a first step to people in their career. This must include giving the Institute for Apprenticeships the independence and clout it needs to create a world class skills system in England.
“The Government should be given credit for its commitment to skills reform. What’s clear is that both they and businesses understand the need for high-quality apprenticeships in every sector for our economy to flourish.”
So what is the sector response to the CBI report?
Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director City & Guilds Group, said:
“We are pleased to see the CBI set out some clear recommendations for the success of apprenticeships in this country, many of which echo our own calls for change in our Flex for Success? report, published at the beginning of January.
"We particularly welcome the suggestion that Government should enable the IfA to set it’s own success measures for technical education which should be based on criteria such as progression, and learner outcomes. We have long been calling for the Government to set out clear success measures in advance of policy interventions that actually place individual progression at their heart.
"We are also pleased to see the calls for more clarity from Government about how in future traineeships will interact and link to both apprenticeship standards and T-Levels as well as the need for progression routes to be clearly mapped by IfA. We know employers are frustrated by the siloed skills policy-making that often happens and don’t yet have a clear understanding of the benefits and difference of T-Levels compared to apprenticeships.”
Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) comments:
"The CBI have put forward some very constructive proposals, including the call for more transparency on the part of IfATE in its decision-making. In our view, the transparency should also cover any advice the Institute offers on the levy rate.
"AELP also supports the recommendation that narrow programmes should be culled from the standards and we should be looking to do more benchmarking with international standards using WorldSkills benchmarks. On the issue of external quality assurance, we have repeatedly called for Ofqual to be given sole responsibility, not least because the action would remove a lot of unnecessary cost from an already burdened system."
Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) comments:
“It’s good to see a business body like the CBI getting four square behind beefing up the role of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Other leading systems, like Switzerland and Germany, have had the equivalent of the Institute in place since the early 1970s. So now is not the time to be chopping and changing. It is also clear that Sir Gerry Berragan and his team need more autonomy and more resources from central government to do the job that they’ve been tasked to do by Parliament. It’s crazy, for example, that the cost of quality assuring the new system, via EQA bodies, is expected to come out of the funding band allocations for each apprenticeship when this should be seen by government as a necessary infrastructure cost and therefore budgeted for separately. Consequently, we need a single quality assurance framework for apprenticeship. The current hotchpotch approach to EQA is simply not working.
"Federation of Awarding Bodies members continue to raise concerns with me about the trailblazer process and the fact there is actually less visibility and accountability of employers in the system today compared to the old system. With T-Levels entering the market, alongside new apprenticeship standards, it would make sense to look at ideas like enabling groups of sector employers to come together in formal technical education partnerships. This would at least solve the employer accountability issues and enable my members to engage more effectively with the demand-side.”
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning & Work Institute comments:
"There’s lots to welcome in the CBI report on apprenticeships. I’m particularly pleased to see the CBI echo Learning and Work Institute’s call for apprenticeship standards to be benchmarked against the best in the world and for an increased focus on the outcomes of apprenticeships – their impact on people’s long-term job and pay prospects. These are essential components of quality.
"Beyond this, we also need greater action on access. Everyone who can benefit from an apprenticeship should have a fair chance to access one. Yet our research shows stark inequalities in access – we need employers and providers to work together to boost flexible apprenticeships so that those with caring responsibilities are not locked out of opportunity, and action to tackle gender segregation too.
"The Levy and associated reforms are a real step forward. It is now time for us to take the next steps. Fair access should sit alongside high quality as the core measures of success for apprenticeships."
Ian Pretty, CEO, Collab Group, said:
“Collab Group strongly endorses the recommendations proposed by CBI in their “Getting Apprenticeships Right paper.” This is a crucial time for technical education and the recommendations put forward by the CBI are practical and achievable. We particularly welcome the calls for a mechanism to be established to allow employers to appeal to retain levy funds where relevant apprenticeship standards remain in development.
"Collab Group has advanced a similar point in our recent paper on apprenticeships: Making apprenticeships work for all.
"We also welcome calls from the CBI to improve transparency and speed up the standard approval process at the ifA. We have a great opportunity to build upon recent reforms and create a world class skills system. To enable this the ifA will need to work to embed quality across T-levels and apprenticeships while also being agile enough to respond to ever changing skills needs and demands.
"Collab Group colleges are committed to working with organisations like the CBI the ifA to make these reforms a success.”
Graham Hasting-Evans, Group Managing Director, NOCN, said:
“NOCN supports the CBI recommendations. We welcome the Government’s reforms and have supported the establishment of the Institute for Apprenticeships.
"However we have believed for some time that the number of Government agencies involved is too complex and that the Institute needs to be strengthen and give the resources and remit to drive the reforms through.”
David Gallagher, Managing Director of Apprenticeship Services, NCFE, said:
"We understand that the regulatory landscape can be confusing but it all comes down to clarity, communication and key organisations working together for the good of the learner. We believe that there are some very strong and fit for purpose regulators in the sector such as OFQUAL and OFSTED with who we work closely, and the key to success is working together to achieve the best results.
"Like any industry, achieving good balance between supply and demand is so important. We welcome any steps towards achieving improvements in the supply-side and a more balanced conversation between supply and demand. Therefore we fully support the recommendation for a comprehensive supply-side strategy.
"The technical and vocational education landscape is changing rapidly and as a leading Awarding Organisation and End-Point Assessment Organisation, we’re well placed to support the development of clear progression routes across T Levels and Apprenticeships. We would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with CBI and other key organisations to help shape a technical and vocational education landscape that is fit for the future and supports progression and achievement."