From education to employment

The ‘one size fits all’ approach of 20% off the job training is unhelpful and should be reviewed as soon as possible

Patrick Craven, Executive Director – Strategic Partnerships, Policy and Contracts, City & Guilds

20% #OTJT – Poor recognition of the value of learning on the job in an apprenticeship leads to a call to review government rules for apprenticeship delivery 

Leading apprenticeship employers and practitioners agree that no ‘magic formula’ exists for splitting the time for training on and off the job in order to deliver a successful apprenticeship.

In research published by Association of Employment and Learning Providers, sponsored by City & Guilds Group, they argue that it is the combination of on and off the job training elements that define success, not the absolute amount or proportion of either. 

The ‘one size fits all’ approach of 20% of contracted working hours being off the job learning in all sectors at all levels is unhelpful and should be reviewed as soon as possible.

The practitioners call for off-the-job training (OTJT) to be renamed as Apprenticeship Development Time to help end the ambiguity and confusion that the current 20% rule has caused and has been regularly cited in surveys as the biggest barrier to more employers engaging in the apprenticeship programme.

The verdict from the research is that the rule appears to be a regulatory device simply aimed at eliminating instances of poor practice where no or very minimal time is spent away from productive work tasks to address gaps in learning: as such, it has no basis in evidenced effective pedagogy.

Furthermore, practitioners with strong support from AELP and City & Guilds say that high quality on the job training is much more significant within an apprenticeship but is totally under-recognised by policymakers.

AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said:

“To gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours required in each standard, the on-the-job training is as important, if not more so, than off-the-job. In fact, the blend of the two is the most important factor. The appropriate proportions will vary by sector, standard, level and setting and there should be flexibility in approach. This is something that Ofsted has said from day one and is further supported by this research.”

Patrick Craven, Executive Director – Strategic Partnerships, Policy and Contracts, City & Guilds, said:

“It is right that careful attention should be given to the monitoring and prevention of poor provision and that is something that all involved in the process support.  This does not mean however that we should ignore the unintended consequences of simplistic measures that aim to ensure compliance and regulation rather than developing the quality experience and outcomes that apprenticeships offer.  This is an informed critique from communities that wish to improve and refine our apprenticeship programmes to make them the best they can be, and perhaps the envy of the many countries that we are so often compared to.”

Need for a clearer definition

Practitioners called for better clarity between on-the-job training and time spent doing the job. The most straightforward definition of on-the-job training was where the learning of something new is taking place, including the experience of putting something into practice under supervision.

However, it is often hard for employers, apprentices and providers to distinguish doing the job from being trained on the job, because there are so many instances during the working day where staff make suggestions to one another, share issues and jointly agree solutions, and so on.

If a delineation between on and off-the-job learning remains within apprenticeship delivery regulations, then the rules on what each comprises should therefore be reviewed to consider relaxing the restrictions on out of core hours study being ineligible as off-the-job training.

The right balance between on and off the job training and learning varies considerably between sectors and levels of study, and this should be more widely investigated and embraced as part of a review. 

Respondents to the research gave diverse examples of potentially excellent methods of on-the-job training by employers, all of which include feedback during or afterwards, and many if not all of which could be argued to be either on- or off-the-job depending on who was being asked.

Support for employers

Practitioners recommend that major coordinated efforts are required to support employers who are willing to be involved and understand potential benefits to their business but do not have the work-based learning expertise to deliver successful on-the-job learning. This will be easier to achieve without artificial delineations between on and off-the-job learning, particularly where these give rise to predefined roles for employers and learning providers.

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