John Hyde accuses the government of hypocrisy through ignoring the group of people who are likely to have the best understanding of related demands and benefits of the vocational training programmes when forming the Institute of Apprenticeships — ex-apprentices.

We now know the identity of the employers forming the Institute of Apprenticeships, all graduates.

Not an ex-apprentice among them, which is a great pity when some of our most successful business are led by ex-apprentices.

One hopes one
of their first moves will be to co-opt some practitioners who actually understand the minutiae of apprenticeship delivery

Each industry will have its heroes, but from the hospitality sector, Jason Atherton, an ex-YTS trainee has grown a chain of 14 restaurants around the world from New York, Sidney, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dubai with five in London, 3 with Michelin stars.

Despite the Department for Business, Innovation Skills’ (BIS) own research that inviting apprenticeship practitioners to join employers trailblazer groups substantially improved their effectiveness, this evidence seems to have been ignored when creating the membership of the Institute of Apprenticeships.

One hopes one of their first moves will be to co-opt some practitioners who actually understand the minutiae of apprenticeship delivery and employer engagement.

While I am very sceptical about the trailblazer apprenticeship standards
adding any quality to the current frameworks, being totally reliant on an end test, the substantial number of apprenticeships in new sectors and new careers is encouraging.

However I haven’t seen any reduction in my bank charges, now the government is paying for banking qualifications through the apprenticeship route.

This government came to power pledging to increase apprenticeship numbers to 3m starts.

It’s ironic that the first growth requests to the Skills Funding Agency and Education Funding Agency have been turned down.

It may be arguable the 3m will be achieved by the end of this parliament, when the levy is fully in place and the public sector hit their imposed targets.

Yet not funding growth now sends out mixed messages both to the sector and potential employers and apprentices alike.

Opportunities missed now may not be replaceable later.

Concerns are also being expressed about the low take up of trailblazer standards.

Sectors with current high volumes of apprentices, i.e. retail, care, customer services, business administration, hospitality and catering do not yet have trailblazers in place.

Many of the approved trailblazers are at higher levels, where take-up is bound to be lower.

Funding, especially for end testing has not been agreed for most standards, so providers are reluctant to commit without knowing the financial consequences.

But most providers, especially in the high volume areas are concerned about the impact of end testing on completion rates.

The current completion rate of around 70 per cent means just under 1m of the 3m starts will fail.

However, replacing continuous assessment of skills and knowledge with an end test is bound to drop completion rates, as providers get used to the new system.

Many learners took the apprenticeship route because of the practical skills and not the written testing, so for many they will fail in the new system.

It would damage apprenticeships’ reputation if the completion rates fell drastically, or learners or employers decline to personally fund retakes.

Headlines of 50 per cent failure rates in apprenticeships, or only half of the 3m apprentices pass would make political capital for the opposition parties as they emerged towards the end of this parliament.

Retention of SASE frameworks as an insurance to ensure this does not occur until we have actual results from trailblazer completions, makes sense.