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The Reform of our apprenticeship system (Trailblazers) and technical education (T-Levels) is crucial to the future successful running of our economy in a competitive Global environment.  If done in the right way, it will address our historic 30% productivity gap.

Although we have made progress in last four years (in some sectors, good progress) since the reforms were started, much more needs to be done and we urgently need to speed up.

However, we all recognise that we have ‘implementation challenges’ which must be faced and addressed, if we are to avoid the type of failure we had with 14 - 19 years Diplomas.

Today, NOCN publishes a Ten Point Plan for Accelerating the Reform:

1. Manage the Reform as a Major Investment Project:
This Reform is the greatest change to our vocational and technical education and skills system in a generation. Arguably it is a bigger ‘project’ than some of the major infrastructure projects we are currently investing in such as HS2, Crossrail 2, Nuclear Build etc.. We need to manage it as if it is a major single reform, not as currently split between several Government organisations.

2. Set up the IfA-TE as the single Delivery Organisation:
The Government has now set up the IfA-TE to move forward apprenticeship reform and technical education. We need to identify it as the ‘single’ Delivery Organisation for the Step-Change. Accordingly, it must now be urgently, fully established, and properly resourced with a budget that reflects this role.

3. Staff the IfA-TE with the right people:
We must recruit the right leadership and personnel with all the necessary industry and skills development experience.

4. Create a Single Reform Programme:
Apprenticeships and T-Levels must be integrated into a single Reform Programme, with clear career progression pathways to let our people see how they can progress with a mixture of integrated apprenticeships and T-Level qualifications. Achieving an ‘apprenticeship’ and/or a T-Level must be seen as and treated as a qualification so that it is transferable around the World.

5. Integrate Productivity Improvement into the Reform Programme:
We recognise that we have a 30% productivity gap.  One of the ways to address this is to improve skills. Accordingly achieving productivity improvement, as well as quality improvements, must be seen as a core objective of apprenticeship and technical education Reform.

6. Re-think External Quality Assurance (EQA): 
The current approach to quality assurance and regulation EQA is cumbersome, expensive and is in danger of creating inconsistency and variations in quality. The reality from the DfE’s own figures is that next year there will be very few apprenticeship EPAs to be quality assured. Accordingly we believe the Government should halt any further implementation on the current EQA approaches and instead over the next year:

a. establish a single set of QA rules and regulations; and
b. carry out an independent review to define a common efficient EQA delivery model.

7. Establish a clear Project Plan of what is needed over the next five Years:
Every successful programme of change has a clear project plan with milestones and identifiable achievements. At present we do not have this in sufficient detail to ensure a successful outcome. Accordingly to under pin the proposed single Project Plan for apprenticeship and T-Level Reform we must establish the list of Apprenticeship Standards required across the economy (all of them). From this we can establish what T-Level qualification we need for each Sector/Route. Fully operational ‘single’ Employer Panels (combined for apprenticeships and T-Levels) for each Route should be mobilised urgently to do this work.

 8. Prioritise the Work: 
A clear Project Plan will also allow us to prioritise the work; which Apprenticeship Standards need to be developed first and which T-Level qualifications required. We can then ‘Fast Track’ quick wins.

9. Speed up the Process:
At present it takes far too long to get an Apprenticeship Standard to the point of ‘Delivery’ with at least one Apprentice Assessment Organisation (AAO) appointed. Accordingly we must streamline the processes for Standards development and AAO approvals, with better definition on curriculum being built into the Assessment Plans. Appropriately skilled specialist personnel need to be involved in the approvals process. This will help to speed up decision making.

10. Improve Communications:
We have not yet won the hearts and minds of sufficient numbers of employers, nor the public at large. Accordingly, we must ramp up communications with young people, potential apprentices, parent, schools, career advisers, employers, training providers, Awarding Organisations and Apprentice Assessment Organisations.

Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director, NOCN Group

About NOCN Group:

NOCN Group is a progressive, international educational organisation, committed to creating opportunities in learning and skills.
NOCN is a registered charity, not for profit organisation and Leader in Diversity.
NOCN is a regulated Awarding Organisation (AO) in a wide range of sectors. Product include apprenticeship frameworks, vocational qualifications and Functional Skills.
NOCN is a leading independent Apprentice Assessment Organisation (AAO), working with large employers and training providers to deliver high quality End Point Assessment of apprentices.
Cskills Awards is part of NOCN Group and the second largest Construction AO in the UK.

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