Peter Marples, Co-Founder, PromteEd

I am sure everyone was listening in anticipation yesterday to The Chancellor pronouncing his headline spending plans. For me, I was travelling from Blackpool to Manchester so not much else to do on a wet Wednesday lunchtime. 

I listened intently and the analysis afterwards on Talk Radio and was pretty clear that what he said was not good for Apprenticeships, indeed as I left Manchester to journey to Sheffield over the Peak District, I rang a colleague just to check I wasn’t missing the point.

I was astonished to arrive home to Linked in and the sounds from people that the flood gates will open and this will be brilliant for the Skills Providers and Sector. 

Whilst Peter Mucklow is left with the job of unpicking the detail and translating it into yet more funding guidance, I was left perturbed about how these announcements could be seen to be positive for Apprenticeships and meet the Boris Guarantee he spoke so eloquently about only 4 weeks earlier – getting everyone excited about what the future may hold. 

I am fortunate to be involved in many businesses, of which the majority are outside the skills sector. The package of measures will do little in terms of job retention, growth of new sustainable job opportunities and growth of Apprenticeships. 

I am left with the feeling it is all about keeping as many people off the unemployment register for the next 9 months and then deciding what next to do. 

So breaking down the package of measures and cost - £9bn for the Retention of Furlough staff at £1,000 per head. My granddaughter who is 5 can work that mental arithmetic out but does he really think 9m will return to work and does he think that £1,000 will make all the difference when employment costs from November – January have to be covered wholly by the employer. It’s a give- away, and dare I suggest will simply support those industries such as the Professional Services Firms  - Accountants and Lawyers who will pocket the cash as extra profit. 

The cost – I bet will be less than half of that to the Treasury as many employers will be making redundant unfortunately most of those currently on furlough.

Traineeships – whilst the new money is welcomed, injecting over £100m more into a scheme that has been in decline for some considerable period is questionable – it certainly does not result in sustainable employment for the majority of those undertaking them, only if you use the statistics and count them twice !. 

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What is more, there isn’t the provider base with experience of delivering volume rapidly and unless you have a contract, then you cannot deliver Traineeships anyway. That, together with the consultation announcements on sub-contracting must result in a ‘no sub-contracting’ for traineeships if the ESFA is to be consistent – SO the key has to be rapid clarification on  the procurement of this new traineeship funding to enable as many quality providers to be involved as possible – without that – the same old providers will fail again!

Kick Start – now call me old fashioned or simply thick, but I cannot think of how a group of highly paid Civil Servants could invent such a scheme when apparently the focus was on Quality Apprenticeships. 

We now have a replacement programme – a work experience programme with NO training for six months fully paid by HM Treasury and oh yes, a little bit extra for overheads. And people believe this will lead to sustainable employment for these individuals with no employer incentive at the end or even a commitment from the employer to employ them for a further six months after! 

I consider myself a pretty good salesman but even I would struggle to sell an Apprenticeship to an employer ahead of this scheme. Indeed, with a large number of eligible candidates the Provider will be ‘morally forced’ to offer these to the employer in the hope that they may turn into an Apprentice in six months time – and at not insignificant cost to the provider. I am sure there will be a flood of high profile names lined up to support their Apprenticeship recruitment but adding them all up – you will get to less than a couple of thousand. 

Where is the QUALITY in a programme with no requirement for training – where is the support for the young person and above all what does it do for the economy – call me cynical but it just keeps 1m off the dole for the next six months. 

Apprenticeship Guarantee- not a word muttered by the eloquent Chancellor, not even a commitment to fund every learner that wants an Apprenticeship, nor a commitment to remove the ridiculous rule of limiting 3 Apprentices per employer (we all know who invented that one!). 

£3,000 is simply not enough to make a difference, especially when I can take two people, each for six months and the Government pays me £10,000 plus my overheads and I have them full time with no commitment to training under the Kick People off the Dole Programme. Guess what, I have clients already on the phone wanting to support Kick Start but at the expense of their Apprenticeship programmes!

Don’t get me started on even more money for Careers when the existing funds are completely wasted, and also the playing around the edges of other elements of support. 

For Mr Mucklow through his new 3C’s approach, this is his first examination to take (No skipping his GCSE for him)  – providers will be waiting for RAPID clarification of what is going to happen, at the same time as the ROATP and ROTO register is under review and the majority of providers will not in its current form be able to access the traineeship programme. 

I really do wonder how the DFE and ESFA dream up these programmes – they have never been connected to the real world – but this time, it is serious and impacts on the lives of many thousands of young people. But for most who have never seen the front line and are protected by their gold plated pensions, why should they bother talking to those that actually do know the impact of their policies and rules. 

Providers need clarity, not something the ESFA have ever been good at including the following:

  • -Open up the market for traineeships funding opportunities to new Quality providers
  • -Provide clarity on the next steps for the ROATP and ROTO and get on with whatever is going to happen
  • -Ensure Kick Start has some element of training attached to it as a mandatory requirement – however small
  • -Urgently review the impact all the measures will have on Apprenticeship starts and sustainable job outcomes. 

We have a Kick People off the Dole Programme but believe me, most of them will be back on the dole come Easter 2021. That is not the legacy that the Chancellor or Boris wants to leave – or are they actually that bothered?

Peter Marples, Co-Founder, PromteEd

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