Stewart Segal, Chief Executive, Aegis

NCFE and the Campaign for Learning consider the future of post-18 education, in their recent volume of opinion pieces: 'The post-18 review of education and funding: a review of a lifetime' , where Stewart Segal highlights the need for more apprenticeships for young people and young adults:

The apprenticeship levy has radically changed the way in which apprenticeships are funded in England. The move from frameworks to standards is another big change to the apprenticeship system, and now we have the announcement of a government review of the UK apprenticeship levy with any major reforms not being implemented until after 2020.

I welcome the review of the levy but for now we need stability and, where appropriate, some changes to the current approach to make the system work for employers and younger apprentices.

In most of the surveys of employers I have been involved in, the one common feature of what employers want is less policy changes. Fundamental changes have been made to the system by way of the levy, introduction of standards and end-point assessment, but now is a time when we need some stability.

I believe we need a period where employers and apprentices get to understand the complexities of the ‘new’ apprenticeship system. Only when they understand the system will they get the best from it.

We need to maintain the policy direction such as standards, the levy and end-point assessment, but we need to implement these principles in a way that works for apprentices and employers.

We need policy stability, but the changes I recommend in this article are not changes of principle; they are changes that will refocus the programme of apprenticeships on those priority areas already set out by the government and employers. We need time without any major policy shifts in direction.

Instead, we need changes like these that will focus resources on where we need them to ensure the UK has a world class apprenticeship system. It is also clear from the low level of apprenticeship starts and the threat to apprenticeships for younger people (the shift towards older people and higher levels of standards continues) that we do need to ensure the current system works.

We need to encourage more apprenticeship opportunities for young people. This has always been a priority for government and employers but the current system does not provide the incentives that the previous system did.

The government has accepted that there is an additional cost to creating and delivering apprenticeships for young people. There is a £1,000 incentive for both employers and training providers for young people aged 16, 17 and 18.

Unfortunately, this does not cover the additional cost of the delivery and will continue to encourage employers to focus on apprenticeships for existing staff and increasingly experienced and senior staff.

Apprenticeships for all ages and all levels is a good thing, but the system should incentivise programmes that give the best payback for the country, employers and apprentices alike, and that is newly recruited young people into effective and high quality apprenticeships.

A must do reform: Increased financial incentives for apprentices aged 16-24

The government should increase financial incentives for employers to recruit young people and young adults aged 16-24.

The current flat rate incentive paid to employers should be increased by setting it as a percentage of total funding and extended to cover 19-24 year olds as well as 16-18 year olds.

Additionally, employers with up to 250 employees taking on 19- 24 year olds should be exempt from making co-contributions.

Recommendation 1: Improve the coverage of apprenticeship standards

I support the move to standards but we need an overall structure so that we get better coverage and comparisons between sectors and levels of apprenticeships.

Recommendation 2: Allow the levy to fund traineeships

I strongly support the levy but agree that there should be more flexibility for employers in how they manage the levy. A major flexibility would be to allow employers to use the levy funds to support pre-apprenticeship programmes such as traineeships. We also need to find a way to extend some of those flexibilities to non-levy employers without the introduction of a stop-start contracting system. Smaller employers will need full support from providers to engage with the system.

Recommendation 3: Allow employers to choose qualifications in apprenticeships

Qualifications are important to apprentices and employers. We should allow employers to choose whether to include appropriate qualifications in standards rather than allow the Institute for Apprenticeships to decide.

Stewart Segal, Chief Executive, Aegis

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