Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, spoke to FE Week about the government’s recent apprenticeship announcements.
Q) What do you make of the announcement, made by John Hayes MP, that all 16-18 apprenticeships must last at least a year?
On the substance of the announcement, I think it is an attempt – if it’s an attempt to bear down on potential abuses, or not even abuses but training that should not be being badged as apprenticeships – essentially it should come under the heading of pre-apprenticeship training. That’s a reasonable step to take.
Q) Why do you think John Hayes MP has decided to make this particular announcement now?
The truth of the matter, which I said in the debate yesterday, is that they have been… not pushed into it, but they’ve been galvanised into action by a series of concerns.
Some of which your publication has produced, and other people have produced. I’ve asked detailed questionss about it and clearly, in the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) in particular, there’s been a great deal of disquiet about the potential for abuse.
That’s one of the reasons why this is coming in, and why I think it’s coming through at this time. But as I say, it’s come in on the back of a process of ongoing pressure.
Q) What about apprentices aged 19 to 24? Should the minimum duration of 12 months be extended to them too?
I did make the point in the debate that it doesn’t address the issues of quality and progression of apprenticeships in the crucial age range of 19-24, and its all very well, the Minister saying hes going to look at that, but I would of thought it would have made more sense to have considered the age range of 16 to 24 as a whole, because the issues which arise around 16 to 18 year-olds and abuse also arises around abuse around 19 to 24 year-olds.
Q) Will it be easy to implement and monitor these new measures?
The practical point, which again I made in the debate, is who’s actually going to administer this? Who’s actually going to carry this through, and do the checks and all the rest of it? Of course it’s the good old National Apprenticeship Service, which is certainly not having its numbers increased, it’s having it’s staff reduced and has got all sorts of new responsibilites being loaded onto them.
You do have to wonder where all this extra administrative capacity to do these things properly is going to come from.