From education to employment

ALP contest the Apprenticeship Bill in the House of Lords

The House of Lords is currently debating the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill.

The Bill’s key areas include a right for employees to request time away from their duties to undertake training, and the dissolution of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

It could change the face of Apprenticeships as we know it. The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) is just one organisation to raise queries about, specifically, the consultation on apprenticeships. They place real emphasis on Guided Learning Hours (GLH) as an area that needs particular attention from the House of Lords.

The ALP has stated their complete opposition to the same minimum amount of guided learning hours and mandatory "off-workstation" training being applied to all apprenticeship frameworks. Ministers have given assurances that the ASCL Bill will provide the same guarantee for apprentices as young people in jobs with training, according to a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS)

Currently, The Education and Skills Act 2008 specifies a minimum of 280 Guided learning hours per year for young people in jobs with training.

DBIS also said that they are working with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the National Apprenticeship Service to consult on a minimum requirement for off-workstation learning.

A DBIS spokesperson DBIS said: "The Joint Apprenticeship Unit is working with employers and others to agree a suitable definition for inclusion in the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England which is due to be published in August 2009."

However, the ALP insisted they have found no support for such measures from its members or other interested parties for such a rigid proposal. They warned the needs of employers would be compromised and they are currently its very strength.

"To impose this requirement on all Apprenticeship frameworks would lead to the complete wipe-out of Apprenticeships in many sectors, especially some of the newer service sectors," said the ALP.

They called the requirement a "straitjacket" that would restrict employers to limited amounts of flexibility and difficulty meeting their particular sectoral and occupational needs.

Another area for concern is minimum entry requirements for Apprenticeships that would call for specific qualifications.

The ALP believes Apprenticeships would be less accessible for young people who are in danger of becoming NEET (otherwise known as not currently engaged in employment education or training).

ALP added: "These young people have turned their back on the traditional academic route – gaining qualifications at school or college – and to make those very qualifications a requirement to enter their preferred, vocational route would be disastrous."

The committee stage continues on16 July when further amendments will be discussed.

Sophie Knowles



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