Urgent reform to apprenticeships needed, says BIS Committee

An 11-month government inquiry into apprenticeships has recommended a host of changes, including “closer scrutiny, careful monitoring or even complete reform”.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee today published its report on apprenticeships. Click here to download the report.

It has called for an “overarching government strategy and clear purpose for the apprenticeship programme,” along with a “formal” definition of apprenticeship.

It also recommends a simplified funding system and a review of profit levels among training providers.

Committee chairman Adrian Bailey MP said: “The apprenticeship programme can play a key role in resolving some of this county’s most pressing issues.

“It can help us to create a more skilled workforce, to increase employment and to generate sustainable economic growth.

There are many areas that require closer scrutiny, careful monitoring or even complete reform”

“For these reasons, the government has, quite rightly, made apprenticeships a priority and has devoted significant resources to helping them thrive.

“But money does not guarantee success. The apprenticeship programme needs clarity, oversight and, in these straightened times, to demonstrate that it is providing value for money.

“There are many areas that require closer scrutiny, careful monitoring or even complete reform.

“This wide-ranging, evidence-based report carefully lays out the areas where we feel the current model could better serve apprentices, their employers, or, in many cases, both.

“Young people in this country should be given every chance to fulfil their potential in school, in work and in life.

“An apprenticeships programme that is fit for purpose will help them do this.”

The inquiry looked at a number of areas on apprenticeships, including government policy.

“Without clarity, there is only confusion. Confusion as to what the Government is trying to achieve, what apprentices should be focussing on and what employers should be offering,” said Mr Bailey.

“An apprenticeship programme without a clear strategy and purpose will not achieve its goals and will be open to abuse.

“This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

He added: “Quality, not quantity should be the over-riding measure of success for apprenticeships.

“It may be more difficult to measure, but this should not be a barrier to trying.

“An increase in numbers may always be welcome but a guarantee of quality will always be vital.”

Further issues examined by the committee were delivery and funding, apprenticeship preparation and value for money.

Mr Bailey said: “Apprenticeships are not just for the young. The current funding structure does not reflect this.

“It is disturbing that the Minister has no idea of the impact his department’s funding decisions may be having on older applicants.

“Apprenticeships are a viable and attractive route to a career and should be seen as equal to the university route.

“It is the responsibility of the Government, our schools and the National Apprenticeship Service to make sure they are presented in this way at an early stage in the curriculum.

“Our workforce must be encouraged to be as skilled as possible. Progression through the apprenticeship programme is key to achieving this.”

He added: “This is a time of austerity for Government, individuals, for families and for businesses. But it is important that we continue to invest in skills.

“We heard evidence of excessive profits at the public’s expense, of a Government paying out too much money far too easily and of a lack of genuine value for money being provided by apprenticeship schemes. This is unacceptable.”

See the November 11 edition of FE Week for in-depth analysis and reaction to the committee’s report.