From education to employment

BIS report calls for Apprenticeship reform

A new government report has said Apprenticeships should be reformed to ensure they are providing people with the necessary skills for boosting the UK’s economy.

The report, published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, praised the current programme, but said more needed to be done to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Among the recommendations, the report called on the government, employers and schools to be more ambitious in expanding and delivering higher and advanced Apprenticeships. However, it also cautioned that the rapid expansion of Apprenitcehships could result in them being less focused.

“For that reason the government needs to clearly articulate the  overarching strategy and purpose of the Apprenticeship programme,” it stated.

“The introduction of a definition of Apprenticeships would also ensure greater clarity within that strategy. In addition, the Government has to demonstrate value for money in the programme. As the Department acknowledged, there is insufficient data to inform decisions on where funds are best allocated. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), welcomed the report, but said the comments on ‘quality rather than quantity’ could have given more recognition to the programme’s record 76.4% success rate.

“One doesn’t have to be at the expense of the other,” said Hoyle.

Hoyle also welcomed the report’s observations on whether the 50% funding rate cut for apprentices aged between 19 and 24 is damaging take-up, and said AELP will be joining calls for the government to review the position.

“We are impressed that the committee does not necessarily regard the direct funding of employers’ apprenticeship programmes as a panacea for employer engagement and that any pilots or initiatives should be carefully evaluated,” continued Hoyle.

“Our own recent proposals suggest that vouchers redeemable by SMEs through approved training providers might be the way forward.”

“The committee is also right to recommend that the new minimum duration rules should be kept under review in order to identify any possible unforeseen consequences. AELP is particularly pleased that the MPs have endorsed that the definition of an apprenticeship should include employed status for the learner.”

The 157 Group college association echoed approval for a better defined Apprenticeship programme.

Marilyn Hawkins, chair of the 157 Group, said: “A clear definition of what constitutes an Apprenticeship, as part of a suite of vocational programmes that represent a high-quality route to progression into employment, will be helpful for colleges and learners alike. 157 Group colleges are already working successfully with a wide range of employers of all types to deliver programmes of high quality that are right for their localities and students.”

The full report can be viewed here.

Natalie Thornhill

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