The government urgently needs to step up its response to addressing lower level skills gaps in the economy with Brexit less than a year away, according to a new policy submission by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).
AELP is calling for DfE ministers to use their spending review proposals and the post 18 education review specifically to:
- provide greater support for Level 2 (L2) skills provision to bolster the economy, workforce productivity and social mobility
- without waiting for the reviews, rebalance immediately the apprenticeship levy reforms to reverse the sharp fall in L2 apprenticeships since May 2017. For 16-24 year olds at L2 and L3, there should be no employer contribution for non-levy payers or for those that exceed their levy
- secure a guaranteed annual apprenticeship budget for non-levy paying SMEs who offer more L2 and L3 apprenticeships
- review and correct L2 apprenticeship framework funding rates which have been reduced without an equivalent replacement standard approved and in place for delivering apprenticeships
- introduce equal funding for the learning of Functional Skills for applied English and maths at the workplace
- offer a meaningful set of L2 pathways, along with robust standalone qualifications, for apprenticeships and as part of the introduction of T Levels.
With the latest, otherwise very positive, jobs figures showing that youth unemployment continues to remain above the half a million mark, the AELP submission points out that over 42% of the school population at 16 have not achieved a full Level 2, thereby reducing their chances of gaining sustainable employment. For a large proportion of school leavers, a single leap to Level 3 is impossible and recognition of achievement at Level 2 is therefore vital for motivation and progression.
The paper provides evidence of the huge reliance that key sectors have on workers qualified at Level 2 and the very concerning implications of this if migratory controls are introduced after Brexit. Despite their importance, Level 2 starts in apprenticeships have halved since the levy was introduced and some of these sectors do not have new apprenticeship standards in place to help fill the resulting skills shortages.
Maligning of Level 2 apprenticeships completely unjustified
AELP strongly repudiates the maligning of Level 2 apprenticeships as not ‘proper apprenticeships’, saying that it is completely unjustified, especially since the introduction of the new standards. The submission adds that it beggars belief that anyone after reading the lists of skills, knowledge and behaviours required under a standard would maintain that a person completing such a programme could not call themselves an apprentice.
AELP CEO Mark Dawe comments:
“It’s extraordinary how many policymakers and opinion-formers don’t appreciate how significant Level 2 attainment is for both the economy and the large proportion of young people who leave school without it. AELP often has to point out that it’s impossible for a young person to embark on skills training or technical education at Level 3 without having access to a Level 2 programme first. Recognition of achievement at Level 2 is vital for motivation and progression.
“Our submission exposes how key sectors, which are reliant on migrant labour, will need apprenticeships and other training provision at Level 2 to avoid massive skills shortages after Brexit. The government’s spending review offers ministers the opportunity to rebalance their priorities to stop this unwanted consequence and they shouldn’t pass it up.”
Click here to view the AELP Submission ‘The Importance of Level 2 Skills Provision’