It would be nice to think at some point that we might enter a period of “settled weather” with Apprenticeships and that instead of the constant flow of negative press we might actually be able to look upon the “sunlit uplands” and move towards the future with confidence. No such luck this week. Our ability to grow Apprenticeships and return to the days where some 18,000 individuals were starting an Apprenticeship locally seems as far away and distant as ever
Tripadvisor-style reviews for Apprenticeships
Firstly, we have the Skills Minister endorsing the use of a “smiley face” online review tool, akin to Trip Advisor (but probably or certainly without all the back office support), enabling employers and apprentices to provide feedback on learning providers as a more accurate and effective judge of the quality of a learning provider than Ofsted. Whilst providers are used to being scrutinised and accountable, and having their provision graded by customers and Ofsted, this just doesn’t seem like it should be one of the Government’s key priorities at the moment. Surely stimulating demand for Apprenticeships should be the priority.
Then, at the Conservative Party conference, there was little clarity over whether RoATP is going to be refreshed and how the Apprenticeship programme is going to be given a shot of adrenaline other than the suggestion of expanding the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Facility to 25% instead of the current 10%. The latter doesn’t seem to have been particularly effective or even used to date so expanding it is unlikely to change the landscape. The continued uncertainty over whether there will be a refresh of RoATP is affecting many providers and clarity over the refresh would be welcome.
Hairdressing funding rate cut
Finally, the IFA’s recent announcements that some Standards’ funding rates are going to be cut, some by over 20%, is another unwelcome move at this point in the cycle. A 22% reduction in the rate for the Hairdressing Standard, assuming that EPA costs remain the same, means that in real terms the funding of Standards is now less than that of the old Framework. Whilst decisions have been put on hold for the management qualifications it seems odd that the IFA have sought to reduce rates for the Standards in those areas that are the most popular, in demand and which are currently propping up the number of Apprenticeship Starts nationally.