Update from LCR Apprenticeship-focussed meeting of ESB

GMLPF attended a sub-group of the Employment and Skills Board last week that looked specifically at Apprenticeships in the LCR. The purpose of the meeting was to allow the CA to understand what was working well, what was working less well and what could be done better.

Whilst the above points were useful for group discussion GMLPF made a number of strong points that it felt the CA needed to be aware of, both for its local work but also lobbying of DfE and ESFA. These included:

  • The need for a clear vision for Apprenticeships locally – not another strategy rather a simple set of agreed principles around which providers, stakeholders and employers could cohere and which would provide a point of sail for the next few years
  • The need to boost SME demand for Apprenticeships as much as possible at the moment whilst continuing to support the process of Levy transfer. The LCR CA area has traditionally started more Apprenticeships than it would do on a population share basis. Much of this was driven by SMEs. Decreased SME participation in the Apprenticeship programme however caused by a number of factors including less non-levy allocation, the complexities of the Employer Account (and to some extent the cap of 10) has driven down starts locally, in particular for 16-18-year-olds. The LCR CA has done some valuable work in facilitating unspent levy transfers which has been welcome but this rarely benefits the smaller SME bracket of employers or 16-18 year olds. If we want a model that encourages the participation of all age groups then more needs to be done locally to boost SME involvement in the City region and a loosening of the current cap levels.
  • A closer and more operations driven working relationship between GMLPF and the Be-More team was suggested to support the above and to be better able to link employers and providers where training needs exist. Current levels of co-operation aren’t sufficient to retain all of the opportunities they source within the local provider base.
  • The need to protect Traineeships and promote pre-Apprenticeship provision for 16-18-year-olds
  • The local and national policy shift is towards higher-level technical qualifications, which is understood and creating excellent technical education opportunities locally. To achieve this, it requires investment in the provider base and, reflecting on the recent FE White Paper, opportunities for all providers to be able to secure skills capital funding. It was made clear that ITPs are significantly disadvantaged in this regard as the FE White Paper and previous tendering rounds (bar the last one which was managed by the CA) has limited ITP access to this funding stream.

A further follow-up meeting will look at how we can, through closer collaboration, look to stimulate demand for Apprenticeships.