Firm guidelines need to be put into place to ensure the quality of the content of the new apprenticeship standards is accompanied by quality delivery, says John Hyde.

Politicians and civil servants are forever talking about ‘quality apprenticeships’. The new employer-led apprenticeship standards were introduced to ensure anyone embarking upon an apprenticeship would earn the skills and knowledge their employer required. Indeed, the contents of many of these new standards are inspirational.

At HIT, we have started to roll out the new ‘hospitality team member’ and ‘commis chef’ apprenticeship standards. Employers are very enthusiastic about the commis chef standards, and they are a real improvement on the old NVQ frameworks.

Under the new standards, the onus of ensuring quality is transferred from the provider to the employer

The new standards require a commis chef to become competent in all aspects of food-production and cookery, unlike the NVQ qualification. We have now opened our HIT chef academy at 17 centres around the country, and commis chefs can attend additional workshops on topics they may not see regularly at their workplace; covering things like offal or shellfish, pairing wine and beer with dishes, restaurant entrepreneurship and kitchen management.

The higher funding-levels for commis chefs allow us to deliver a really professional programme. Indeed in the past few weeks, a further 12 Michelin-starred restaurants have enrolled their apprentices into our academy, together with two leading contract caterers which cover the executive and director dining end of the market.

I’m sure in hospitality, our academy sets a high standard for the quality apprenticeships demanded by the politicians, civil servants and employers. Yet nowhere can I find any reference or guidance on the quality of delivery of these new standards.

Previously, SFA regulations had minimum requirements, including one-to-one site visits to learners by the provider. Under the new standards, the onus of ensuring quality is transferred from the provider to the employer, which creates uncertainty when Ofsted, the guardians of quality, can inspect only the provider as the one in receipt of government funding.

Whilst some employers will accept this responsibility, there have been horror stories from the service and retail sector in the past.

Firm guidelines need to be put into place to ensure the quality of the content of the new apprenticeship standards is accompanied by quality delivery, which is accountable, transparent and can be monitored and inspected.

Unless this is discussed now by the DfE, providers and employers, we will end up with scare stories in the press, which will force ministers again to take draconian action to enforce quality delivery, to prevent further damage the reputation of apprenticeships.

This is especially true now that price negotiations have been brought into the equation.

The contents of many of these new standards are inspirational

We had our first experience of that last week when we were invited by the SFA to tender to deliver to a national chain. Needless to say we lost out, so without too many sour grapes, it was interesting to review the process. The client generously shared their feedback and scoring with us so we knew their decision was based solely on price and not on the quality of our delivery.

Without undertaking the delivery remotely online, with no face-to-face onsite interventions, we would not compromise our delivery model to match the price. Neither we nor the client will know for 12 months who was right, until the learners complete or not.

It does seem perverse that an apprentice’s success or failure could be determined by their employer’s willingness to fund their apprenticeship sufficiently.

What will Ofsted’s role be now? Traditionally it has not involved itself in funding levels when inspecting provision. However if the negotiated price is too low to deliver the programme effectively, who is blame: the provider or the employer?

It will be the apprentice who loses out, and probably the taxpayer, as this apprentice will have to be retrained to pass their programme in the future.

 

John Hyde is the chairman of HIT Training