From education to employment

FE sector reacts to Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech today set out ambitions to achieve two million Apprenticeships by 2015

There have been more than 1.7 million starts so far, according to provisional figures, meaning some 300,000 more will be required before the next election in May.

Below are comments on the announcement from key figures in the Further Education sector:

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers:

“The coalition government’s commitment to growing Apprenticeships is right for sustaining the economic recovery by giving employers the skilled workforces they need. We need to substantially increase the size of the programme and the government’s proposed reforms for Apprenticeships should be built around employers having a choice on how they are funded.

“At the moment, there is a danger that the current proposals will reduce the number of businesses involved in the programme and result in fewer places available for younger apprentices.”

Chris Jones, chief executive of awarding body City & Guilds :

‘If we really want apprenticeships to be seen as a credible and valuable route to a career, we desperately need to see stability in the system. Too much to-ing and fro-ing on the policy around apprenticeships only serves to confuse people.

‘We know businesses can benefit from taking on apprentices, particularly with ever-increasing skills gaps but things keep changing around apprenticeship policy. For employers and young people alike this only causes confusion. We should be making the system easier to navigate, not harder. We need a strong, stable, consistent system that meets the needs of young people, employers, and our economy.’

City & Guilds also believes that to ‘continue to deliver the best schools and skills for young people,’ and to succeed in reaching the target of two million apprenticeships, ineffective careers advice needs to be dealt with. Recent research from the City & Guilds Group found that only 25% were informed about apprenticeships, compared to 44% of degrees.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers:

“This Queen’s Speech comes at a time of profound change for the country. ATL is clear that government needs to ensure young people have the skills and knowledge to enable this country’s economy to grow. As our manifesto makes clear, education has a vitally important part to play.

“We welcome an increase in apprenticeships as part of the answer to giving young people a stake in society. Of course, these must offer a broad learning entitlement across a range of vocations, and must be designed so they fit the needs of particular sectors.

“Young people need a broad and balanced curriculum which focuses on skills development as well as academic excellence. Our schools and colleges are in danger of becoming exam factories. Rapid changes to GCSEs and A-levels put huge pressure on pupils and teachers, and risk ruining the credibility of qualifications. This also limits opportunities for young people to progress.

“We are particularly worried that exams won’t assess the practical aspects which are so vital to science and the arts, and that this may lead to less practical work carried out in school. We hope the government will not further limit the options for young people by being too rigid about the form and timing of assessment for apprenticeships.

“ATL is deeply concerned about proposals to open even more academies and free schools. Recent events have shown that standards of education or financial probity of individual schools across the country cannot be overseen from central government. We call for all schools to be held democratically accountable to their local communities.”

Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers:

“The Queen’s speech includes welcome proposals to cut red tape for businesses and help small companies access finance, but much more needs to be done to address the country’s looming engineering and science skills shortage.

“Plans to increase the number of apprentices to 2 million by May 2015 and provide apprenticeships standards through the Trailblazers scheme, while positive, don’t go far enough.

“To even stand still as the baby boomer generation retires, the UK needs to double the number of people taking up engineering careers by 2020. Otherwise we are facing a severe skills shortage, which could hamper vital UK infrastructure projects and lead to the country exporting its own economic growth. Apprenticeships and University degrees in sectors which add value to the UK economy, like engineering, need to be prioritised and incentivised. Government also needs to encourage employers and schools to work more closely and in a more co-ordinated way to show schoolchildren, from an early age, just how rewarding and varied jobs in engineering and science can be.”

Tom Stannard, deputy chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education:

“It is good to see further investment in Apprenticeships, aspirations for delivering the best skills for young people and proposals to better prepare them for the workplace. But the strength of the economic recovery is going to rely on more than young people. There is a major labour-market imbalance ahead of us over the next ten years. It’s anticipated that there will be almost twice as many vacancies as there will be new labour force entrants to fill them. People will not only have to work for longer, but will also need opportunities to improve their skills throughout their working lives, especially as we move to a higher-skilled economy and developments in technology continue.

“We were also pleased to see the announcements on tax relief for childcare as this will help more parents and carers to return to work. However we would urge the Govt to consider tax relief for skills training – as this will help more people get into and progress in their careers. We will be publishing a manifesto next week – ahead of Adult Learners’ Week – detailing six priority actions that we believe the next Government must take. These actions are essential if we are going to achieve a sustainable recovery which will bring prosperity for all. The Government must take action to implement a new skills system that meets the needs of all people of all ages.”

Katerina Rudiger, head of skills and policy campaigns at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: “The need for greater Apprenticeship provision in the UK is clear. The ambition to deliver two million Apprenticeship to start over this Parliament is an admirable ambition, and we welcome the Government’s success in delivering so many new starts to date However, looking ahead, it is vital to continue to ensure that Apprenticeships are high-quality and responsive to the needs of employers. This will mean continuing to engage employers in developing training programmes for each of the Apprenticeships frameworks, giving them the level of co-investment and the impetus they need to ensure the training their apprentices receive benefits their organisation and the apprentices themselves. It will also be vital to ensure smaller employers are encouraged to provide more high-quality Apprenticeships, and given the information and support they need to do so.”

Katja Hall, deputy director-general of Confederation of British Industry:

“Apprenticeships are a great way to build careers and improve the skill levels in our economy, so the Government’s commitment to deliver two million apprenticeships by the end of the Parliament is good news. Ensuring the system is responsive to employers’ needs is essential to delivering on this aim.”


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