Apprenticeship Levy: taking stock

No-one can fail to notice that Apprenticeship Levy updates are coming through thick and fast now. Whilst it is good to finally start getting information through, we are still missing the critical detail behind the proposals published by BIS on its website on the 21st April.

Having attended an FE Week event hosted by Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Skills Minister earlier in the week, it’s clear that he is none the wiser either!

In the opening speech at the event, Marsden made it clear that the Labour party is very much in favour of the Levy. It’s seen as a way of providing funding for Apprenticeships and an opportunity to address quality under the steer of employers who will be more involved than ever before.

The main thrust of Marsden’s speech echoes was what we’ve all been saying: that we need to know the devil behind the detail. Other speakers at the event included Martin Doel (AoC), Gemma Gathercole (Head of Policy – OCR), Mike Cox (AELP) and chair for the afternoon Nick Linford (FE Week).

Mr Marsden went on to express his concerns that that it’s not clear where the figure of 3m Apprenticeship starts has come from or even the £3bn that the Levy is claimed to raise. He also confirmed that no agreement has been reached with devolved governments about what their share of the total £3bn pot will be.

What is crystal clear is that skills providers are going to have to be prepared to react quicker than ever before with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.

One view aired at the event was that Apprenticeship Levy is clouding Apprenticeship policy. All conversations with employers, providers and colleges around Apprenticeships are purely focusing on the Levy and primarily what we don’t yet know! Because so much is still unknown, there is an awful lot of speculation, second guessing, and dare I say it, catastrophising.

The biggest issue in my opinion at the moment is the impact on small and medium sized enterprises, who will for the first time have to contribute cash towards the cost of Apprenticeship training. This may be reclaimed in the form of an incentive, and as with some of the Trailblazer Standard funding bands, employers may be able to get back more out of the system than they put in.

As a sector what we cannot afford to do is shy away from this challenge. We are, after all, just 11 months away from the proposed introduction of these changes.

We now need to start having conversations with employers of all shapes and sizes and put plans in place ahead of introduction of the new funding models from 6th April 2017. These conversations may well be challenging and keeping an open mind, and listening to employers’ concerns is crucial to keeping them on board with the Apprenticeships programme.

Some cope better than others with change and there will of course be winners and losers. But the sector’s had plenty of practice at dealing with change: remember the introduction of core skills, key skills, and functional skills? We have to remain mindful of the opportunity to be found in change.

We could stress over timescales but better to pour our energy into shaping conversations with all stakeholders to make them aware of the changes, and to plan a future course of action agreeable to all.

Gareth Jones
GMLPF Apprenticeships Strategy Manager

Education Select Committee Report into Apprenticeships and Traineeships

I attended the FE Week Annual Apprenticeship Conference in London on Monday and Tuesday this week. The conference marked the beginning of National Apprenticeship Week and also served to launch the Education Select Committee Report – Apprentceships and traineeships for 16-19 year olds . I have summarised the key points of the report below. Please note, Section 6 of the report is dedicated to reform of apprenticeship funding.

  • The number of people undertaking apprenticeships has increased significantly during the current Parliament
  • The number of young people doing an apprenticeship of a year or more has increased from 46% to 97%.
  • Nonetheless participation by 16 to 19 year-olds remains low
  • The central challenge for the Government’s reform programme is to drive up the quality of provision while ensuring that more employers commit to providing apprenticeships for young people.
  • Apprenticeships that do not offer substantial training and do not have a positive impact on income for those who complete the apprenticeship should not receive Government funding. Level 2 apprenticeships which comply with these principles should be retained.
  • Better quality destination data is needed to allow young people to make comparisons between different apprenticeships and assess the likely impact on income.
  • Apprenticeships should not be seen as a second class option because of cultural preferences for academic routes.
  • Part of the solution lies with schools, which need to provide their pupils with good quality careers advice, including information on apprenticeships, as well as worthwhile experiences of the workplace.
  • There are insufficient incentives for schools to provide good quality advice and work experience to their pupils.
  • Report recommends Government urgently review the incentives for schools to provide effective careers advice and recognise that the mantra of “trusting schools” does not work when the interests of schools and young people are not aligned.
  • Report also recommends that Government look at reviving the Young Apprenticeship programme or develop a model that replicates its core academic and work-based components.
  • Report congratulates the Government on listening to employers and providers and abandoning its initial proposals for apprenticeship funding reform.
  • New proposals must be brought forward swiftly to minimise uncertainty over how apprenticeship funding will be managed.
  • As Trailblazer scheme comes to an end there is work to be done to ensure proper oversight and management of standards in the longer term.
  • Report recommends that the Government reviews, and come forward with proposals to strengthen, the involvement of SMEs in the Trailblazer scheme and set out its expectations about what will happen to apprenticeship standards following the conclusion of the Trailblazer scheme.
  • Traineeships are still in their infancy, and it is too early to tell whether or not they are effective in assisting young people who might otherwise end up not in education, employment or training to continue into employment or further learning.
  • The Government should provide greater clarity about the purpose of traineeships and what the success criteria for the programme are.

I encourage all members to download and read the full report. Please share any thoughts, concerns and general feedback. Your views will help inform my discussions with other Liverpool City Region stakeholders about the actions required to sustain and further develop the apprenticeship programme.

James Glendenning
GMLPF CEO

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Download: Education Select Committee Report – Apprentceships and traineeships for 16-19 year olds