From education to employment

The importance of talking to politicians ahead of manifestos   

Gareth John

Vicky Ford, Member of Parliament for Chelmsford, recently met with First Intuition to listen to the growing concerns about the issues facing the skills system in Essex and nationally.

This meeting reinforced the importance of speaking to MPs about issues affecting local people and businesses so they can be considered in upcoming manifestos and beneficial changes made.

First Intuition raised a few key concerns that Vicky will take to the Ministerial team in the Department for Education:

1. The need to close the significant gap between the amount raised from the Apprenticeship Levy and the amount allocated to the Apprenticeship Budget  

Most people might assume that the Apprenticeship Budget and the ‘Levy take’ figures would be similar or the same, but in reality, hundreds of millions a year raised from the Levy are not spent on the skills system that so desperately needs it.  

Recent forecast show that by the 2024/5 fiscal year this gap will be around £800 million, what Simon Ashworth of AELP describes as a ‘gaping chasm’. 

First Intuition’s view is that the entire ‘Levy take’ should allocated to the Apprenticeship Budget and used for the purpose it was designed for; supporting the training and development of apprentices.    

2. the urgent need for an increase in funding bands for all apprenticeship standards  

The ongoing review of around 60 standards is moving too slowly and is only a fraction of the total number of standards being delivered.  

All providers have seen rapid inflation in costs of delivery in the last couple of years, and more and more are finding it impossible to cover these costs with funding bands that remain unchanged. 

The worrying number of significant apprenticeship providers that have discontinued delivery in the last few months shows how critical this situation is. 

Given the fact that the salary bills that levy contributions are based on have been inflating why have funding bands not at least increased to cover dramatic delivery cost inflation?    

3. The need to offer alternative funded training options at level 2 due to the current ‘12 months and a day’ Gateway rule 

The accountancy sector and others are finding that the requirement for apprentices to be on-programme for a minimum of a year is proving a big blocker to the adoption of the level 2 standard.   

In the accountancy sector a minimum duration of 12 months and a day is too long when the level 2 AAT qualification can be completed in 4 to 6 months, and when employers do not want to delay the progress of their strongest and most ambitious entry-level trainees.   

This issue is depriving many young adults of developing critical employability skills and behaviours that they badly need as they enter the workforce for the first time.

Seeing recent figures showing a 16.5% decrease in level 2 starts since the previous year highlight the need to review this as a matter of urgency.   

 An alternative funded option for ‘pre-apprenticeship’ skills training should therefore be made available at level 2 where programmes can be completed in less than a year.   

By Gareth John, CEO of First Intuition

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