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    The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has said that recent funding rule changes for off-the-job training in apprenticeships don’t go far enough in addressing the differing needs of employers and apprentices across various business sectors.

    Backed by the findings of a new survey, AELP has submitted proposals to the Department for Education calling for a robust but flexible approach.

    With collection of the new apprenticeship levy underway, official guidance and the setting out of good practice is urgently needed in respect of ‘20% off-the-job training’. One reason for the urgency is that a number of employers new to apprenticeships have raised concerns that losing an employee for ‘one day a week, every week’ would limit their participation in apprenticeship training. Both employers and training providers are designing programmes but they want to make sure that they are operating within the spirit intended.

    In AELP’s view, the funding rules and guidance for the 20% requirement should fully recognise and accommodate:

    • training which takes place away from the workplace
    • training in the workplace but in a separate training room and/or
    • effective training and coaching at the apprentice’s own workstation when non-productive.

    The underlying message from the AELP survey of current practice was the importance of flexibility to meet the differing needs of employers and apprentices under a set of government reforms designed to put ‘employers in the driving seat’ while protecting the quality of apprenticeships.

    Upfront agreement from the employer and apprentice

    The employer, apprentice and provider should agree the format and design of the apprenticeship programme up front including the off-the-job aspects, with the expectation of what each party will be is contributing, how the knowledge skills and behaviour will be developed, and how that leads to a positive outcome.  

    In addition, AELP believes that:

    The 20% minimum should include time teaching English and maths (where required)

    The approach to separate out the delivery of maths and English from the off-the-job measure will ultimately work against disadvantaged apprentices as employers will be even less likely to allow a day off the job for the apprenticeship training and another day off for English and maths. A consequence of this is that employers and training providers will only then recruit apprentices with English and maths and not take on those that don’t have the necessary level.  When the government is championing social mobility, this would be a backward step.

    Blended learning needs to be properly recognised within the 20% definition

    Well supported distance learning should be supported and not discouraged, with the utilisation of technology to enhance innovative learning being embraced and not stifled. If we want to continue to deliver apprenticeships in the workplace to hard-to-reach groups, especially in rural areas, then AELP feels that blended learning should also be part of the solution for protecting social mobility and geographically providing a wider offering of provision. This would allow engagement in the programme from those who would otherwise be excluded through poor transport links or limited accessibility.

    AELP off-the-job training survey results

    Following discussions between the DfE, ESFA and Ofsted on how the 20% off-the-job requirement should be defined, AELP agreed to survey its member providers to identify how off-the-job training is being currently delivered across different sectors.  The survey found that already a robust set of approaches were being adopted and AELP believes that these should be shared with all providers. The headline survey findings were:

    • Nearly two-thirds (59%) of current off-the-training takes place either fully on the employers’ premises or mostly at the employers’ premises, but with some off-site training
    • Only 13% of off-the-job training fully takes places away from the workplace
    • More than half (56%) of off-the-job training taking place in the workplace is being undertaken away from the apprentices’ immediate workstation
    • 37% of off-the-job training is still done at the apprentice’s workstation, but is kept separate from the apprentice’s job, i.e. clear separation and segregation.

    The AELP proposal paper evidences different approaches across specific sectors and identifies the different types of training which take place off the job.

    AELP CEO Mark Dawe:

    ‘We submitted our proposals and survey results to the government in February and with the levy now live, it’s vital that the DfE responds with guidance and examples of good practice very soon. Without it, employers who were considering offering apprenticeships for the first time may hold back from engaging in the programme denying thousands of young people the apprenticeship opportunities they need.

    ‘We need a system which drives quality but one that also offers the flexibility for providers to meet the differing needs of employers and apprentices across all sectors.’

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