Train to Gain volumes prove ‘lesson in government-speak’

The number of learners starting workplace learning continues to thrive despite the government’s focus on increasing apprenticeships.

The number of new starts in Train to Gain/ Workplace learning fell to 444,700 in 2010/11, a figure still higher than the record number of new apprentices, a total of 442,700, praised by the government last week (see page 8).

The figures, found in the latest Statistical First Release (SFR), also mean that there has been little growth in the overall number of people starting work-based training.
Professor Alison Wolf, an advisor to Government on 14-19 vocational learning, said: “If you search for ‘Train to Gain’ on line, you’ll be told that the government abolished it last year in order to free resources for more valuable activities. So these figures are an interesting lesson in government-speak. Given what is also happening with apprenticeships, you have to wonder whether ministers are taking rising youth unemployment an iota as seriously as they should be.”

Overall numbers of Train to Gain/Workplace learning starts did fall, but some areas saw increases. Qualifications in the Leisure, Travel and Tourism Sector Subject Area rose dramatically by 34 per cent in 2010/11.

The SFR supplementary tables also showed an increase of eight per cent in Train to Gain/ Workplace learning starts in Tottenham and Slough, and there was a similar increase of seven per cent in Hastings and Rye during 2010/11.

They assume all apprenticeships are all about making the first step into training and work. Apprenticeships also serve a vitally important function in providing an opportunity for people to add to their skills who are already at work.”

The findings add to fears that some of the new apprentices being praised by government could in fact be existing employees which would have previously been funded under Train to Gain. New apprentices aged 25 and above increased by 126,500 in 2010/11, while new learners starting a Train to Gain/Workplace Learning qualification went down by 130,200.

John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, told FE Week that he was not concerned with the rise in apprentices aged 25 and above. Mr Hayes said: “You’re right. There was growth in 25+, partly of course because we’ve made apprenticeships our principle vehicle for reskilling and up skilling the workforce.

“It’s true that we need to calibrate the system to ensure there’s growth across the piste, and we are looking at that. I wouldn’t want growth to be exclusively in one area, and it isn’t currently, but if there were any risk of that I would take action to ensure there was consistent and sustainable growth. There’s a misunderstanding I think on the part of people who don’t quite get apprenticeships. They assume all apprenticeships are all about making the first step into training and work. Apprenticeships also serve a vitally important function in providing an opportunity for people to add to their skills who are already at work.”

Train to Gain came under heavy criticism from Mr Hayes when he was Shadow Minister. In November 2009 he said: “The service has a massive dead weight cost. Money for Train to Gain will be transferred into a new budget. The scheme accredits existing skills that are on offer and assesses rather than trains. It doesn’t focus on higher-level skills.”