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AELP responds to Prime Minister’s statement on apprenticeships and Labour’s letter to the Education Secretary

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@AELPUK The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has called on the Department for Education to intervene and ensure that the country’s apprenticeship training provider infrastructure remains in place as part of the post-pandemic recovery plan.

This follows the Prime Minister’s statement to the Commons Liaison Committee yesterday that he would “look at the idea” of giving young people aged 16 to 25 an ‘apprenticeship guarantee’.  The proposal was put to him by the Education select committee chair Robert Halfon.

At the same time, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Toby Perkins for Labour’s education team wrote to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson saying that they did not accept that “there is any justification for the department to not extend that arrangement [provider relief] to those who supply to apprenticeship levy-funded apprentices, too”.

Current AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said,

 “AELP welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to consider the proposal put to him yesterday by Education Committee chair Robert Halfon that there should be an apprenticeship guarantee for every 16 to 25 year old who wants one.  We believe that such a guarantee would make a huge impact in supporting the economic recovery needed after the pandemic.  As studies have shown over the last few weeks, it is young people who have suffered the most in previous recessions and we must not repeat the mistakes in not providing them with meaningful support.  An apprenticeship guarantees a young person a job and the opportunity to earn while they learn. 

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“AELP takes this opportunity to repeat its call first made two years ago that the minimum apprentice wage should be abolished and minimum apprentice wages should be the same as the other NMW bands.

“We have already proposed that apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year olds should be funded out of the mainstream DfE budgets instead of the apprenticeship levy and this should be taken forward urgently.

“If Mr Halfon’s proposal was taken up by the government, then we would need the capacity of the country’s training infrastructure to be at its maximum.  Therefore AELP equally welcomes the intervention of Labour’s shadow education team in writing yesterday to the Education Secretary for a second time to emphasise that the DfE’s provider relief scheme under the Cabinet Office guidance should be applied to all apprenticeships rather than just to the third offered by SME employers.  Labour’s letter accuses the government of putting up a ‘flimsy’ legal argument for not applying the guidance in full and we agree strongly with the Opposition’s assessment. 

“Many prudent providers will see their cash reserves running very low over the next two months and even with the ending of the lockdown, new apprenticeship starts will take a long time to recover, thereby making cashflow and the financial resilience of high quality providers a real issue for concern.  The Cabinet Office guidance is designed to protect government contractors ‘at risk’ and so DfE ministers need to review the position now and safeguard the apprenticeship training infrastructure in the interests of young people seeking a brighter future.  As we have said many times, the apprenticeship budget for 2020-21 has already been allocated to the DfE, meaning that no additional money from the Treasury is required, so what are DfE ministers waiting for?” 

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