One of the largest third sector training providers in the country, YMCA Training, has today called on the Skills Minister to rethink a number of apprenticeship reform policies.

Lady Andree Deane-Barron, managing director of YMCA Training, wrote to the newly-appointed Skills Minister, Robert Halfon, and opened by congratulating him before going on to say: “Having attended the Conservative Party Conference Apprenticeships Debate fringe on the 3rd of October, I was delighted to hear that one of your main priorities as Skills Minister would be to focus on getting more disadvantaged young people into apprenticeships, and that you are keen to receive feedback from providers who work with disadvantaged young people”.

In the six-page letter, Lady Andree Deane-Barron urges the Government to reconsider a number of its proposals to ensure the reforms can start off on a good footing: “While we warmly welcome the commitment to apprenticeships demonstrated by the Minister and the apprenticeship reforms, there are certain aspects which the Government should reconsider if it wants the system to start on a positive note, especially for young people with complex needs”.

Referring to FE Week’s ‘Save our Apprenticeships’ campaign, YMCA Training called for framework funding to stay the same post-May 2017, and raised concerns surrounding proposals to scrap the disadvantage and area uplift funding, stating that these cuts “will have a detrimental impact.”

YMCA Training firmly believes that the Government’s ambition of having all apprenticeships starting on Standards by 2018 is ambitious and calls for more “realistic timescales for the switchover.”

One of the proposals suggested by YMCA Training in the letter is to completely scrap employer contributions for employers hiring 16-18 year olds and Level 2 learners. The charity believes that this could lead to “a rise in employment of 16-18 year olds, as these learners require much more support from providers and employers.”

Another issue raised in the letter to the Minister is GCSE maths and English, with Lady Deane-Barron citing the detrimental effects these particular exams have had on the childcare sector. Highlighting the case of ‘Emma’, one of YMCA Training’s learners, the letter describes how this young person, who is currently working towards the Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification, is studying for a grade C at both English and maths GCSE, while working a 40-hour week.

Lady Deane-Barron said: “Although Emma enjoys finding out about 19th century literature, and the literary, cultural and historical world it opens up to her, she struggles to contextualise this in relation to her own work and this means the skills she is learning do not feel transferable.

Due to the lack of time she is able to study, particularly in relation to her peers studying A-Levels or who may be at college, Emma feels she is being penalised for choosing to go into the workplace as an apprentice.

YMCA Training instead advocates Functional Skills, as it contextualises core English and maths skills and is proven to engage learners who have not achieved GCSE grade ‘C’ and above. The letter describes how “it especially helps the most disadvantaged young people who may have experienced disruptive home lives, homelessness, or mental illness into work by allowing them to fulfil their potential, instead of submitting them to constant knock-backs when they fail their GCSE’s.”

YMCA Training believes that Functional Skills should be viewed as a positive and viable alternative to GCSE’s, and that the focus on improving GCSE success should remain in schools.

YMCA Training is also calling for more adequate careers advice and guidance, suggesting “communication needs to be improved across all strands of the apprenticeship reform system.”

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