The businessman behind a review into apprenticeships has spoken of the “cluelessness” surrounding the programme among employers.
Jason Holt has been tasked by the government to take charge of an employer-led review into how businesses can be encouraged to hire an apprentice.
Mr Holt, chief executive of Holts Group of Companies, was given the role in early February and has since been gathering evidence from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) about what the government can be doing to reduce bureaucracy and simplify the process for recruiting and training new apprentices.
In an update on the progress of his review, Mr Holt told FE Week that there are three areas that he is currently investigating.
He said: “One is very much around the issue of awareness from the employer point of view; there’s a sense of cluelessness out there, which is unbelievable.
“Such as not being aware of what an apprenticeship is or where to begin in looking where to recruit an apprentice.”
Mr Holt also said there is an issue with schools. He said: “They are focused on an academic route and the opportunities for apprenticeships aren’t something that’s clearly defined. However, engaging schools with colleges and employers is something that I’m looking to investigate.”
The final area of investigation, he says, is “the process”, adding: “Where’s the best place to broker the marriage between an apprentice and an employer?
“Is it better at a local level or through the National Apprenticeship Service?”
Mr Holt also revealed that he is “getting to the end of the evidence gathering phase now”, but there is still time to submit views.
One of the ways Mr Holt is gathering evidence is through an online survey, which will stay open until the end of April.
He said: “The final phase is putting it together and testing recommendations with various business focus groups. So I’m beginning to form ideas, but they haven’t been fully formed just yet.”
The recommendations, Mr Holt expects, will go to ministers sometime in May.
Meanwhile, the government has revealed there is no current launch date for a separate employer-led review, which is due to assess quality of apprenticeships.
At the time of announcing Mr Holt’s review in February, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills signalled the separate review would be “launched shortly”, but no further announcement has been made.
A BIS spokesperson said: “It is important sufficient preparatory work is undertaken and that a suitable lead reviewer is secured, so as to ensure the review is as effective as possible. The review will take place alongside the extensive measures already undertaken and work currently underway to raise standards and improve quality of apprenticeships.”
Although the final scope and terms of reference for the review will be announced when the review is launched, BIS has given an insight into how it could be formed.
The spokesperson added: “The broad purpose of the review will be to take a medium-long term look at the future of apprenticeship standards in England; aiming to identify best practice and ensure every apprenticeship delivers professionally recognised qualifications which employers need, to world class benchmarks, and ensure that government is maximising the impact of public investment in apprenticeships.”