Reforms signal ‘death’ of teen apprenticeships

An “enforced” employer’s fee for 16 and 17-year-old apprenticeships under government funding reforms could spell the end of the programme, it has been claimed.

This will create an 18 to 24 English apprenticeship system, but it will kill off apprenticeships for 16 and 17 year olds.”

The move was revealed as part of a technical consultation, but with the ages currently fully-funded by government there were fears it would “kill off apprenticeships for 16 and 17 year olds.”

FE consultant Mark Corney told FE Week: “It would take Sherlock Holmes himself to understand why they have chosen to create a mandatory cash contribution for what only amounts to about 50,000 learners.

“This will create an 18 to 24 English apprenticeship system, but it will kill off apprenticeships for 16 and 17 year olds.”

The consultation document, launched on March 6, follows recommendations laid out in the 2012 review of apprenticeships by former Dragons’ Den investor Doug Richard.

Businesses would receive a one-off lump sum towards costs associated with 16 and 17-year-old apprentices under the proposal, having paid an “enforced co-investment”.

“By making a direct financial contribution towards the cost of training, employers would have a greater incentive to demand relevant high-quality training and good value,” it says in the consultation.
However, Mr Corney said: “Why would you think imposing any charge whatsoever on 16-year-olds will increase employer demand?

“If you’re a local authority and you’re worried about 16 and 17-year-old Neets [not in education, employment or training] when the participation age goes to 18, please don’t look for apprenticeships, because a mandatory cash contribution and routing the money through employer with the administrative problem that creates, I can only see reducing places, not expanding them.”

Chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers Stewart Segal also expressed concerns. “We’ve always said there are two reasons that the reforms might affect the numbers of 16 and 17 year old apprenticeships — the bureaucracy, and the money because these apprentices are fully funded at the moment,” he said.

The consultation suggests a “simple one-off payment” to be awarded to the employer after the apprentice’s first three months recognising that younger apprentices “require a greater level of supervision, guidance, education, and induction into the workplace.”

However Mr Segal said he did not believe this would keep employers on board. “That lump may well be a lot less than the current funding so overall there’ll be less investment in those young people than the current government investment,” he said.

He also said it was “worrying” that 18-year-olds would be considered separately, suggesting plans to “reduce investment further”. The consultation closes at 11.45pm on April 29. It was the second on the proposed apprenticeship reforms and a summary of the results of the first, which finished in October, were included in the new consultation document — the first time the results have been published.

They revealed that the system of funding apprenticeships by allowing employers a reduced PAYE liability, which was named as the government’s preferred funding mechanism in the Autumn Statement and which forms the basis of the new consultation’s proposals, had little support among stakeholders.

Even in the group where it was most popular — medium-sized businesses — the PAYE method was preferred by just one-in-four. The funding reforms could be in place for August 2016. Visit www.gov.uk to take part in the consultation.

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Ignored again

The original apprenticeship reform funding consultation ended in October, and in December the government said it would proceed with the PAYE payment model.

Yet in an annex to the latest consultation we learn that more than 90 per cent of providers and the majority of employers who responded to that first consultation did not favour the PAYE payment model.

This is not the first time the government has shunned the vast majority of funding consultation respondents.

In July 2012, the Department for Education admitted nearly 80 per cent of its consultation responses opposed the single rate for a full-time student system.

The Minister of the time ignored these concerns and introduced it anyway.

So should you respond to this latest list of 21 questions?

Yes, but this time the Minister should listen.

Chris Henword, editor

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