There has been much comment in these pages over recent months about the quality of Apprenticeships. Understandably perhaps, you have been seeking to understand how we can grow the number of Apprenticeships to record levels whilst maintaining standards. I believe that we can not only maintain high standards, but improve upon them; whilst at the same time increasing the number of opportunities available.
The Government already has much to be proud of. The vast majority of Apprenticeships in England are the gold standard of vocational training. They boost individuals’ life chances and build the skills that drive growth. At my insistence for the first time apprentices must be in paid employment and there are now statutory guidelines outlining exactly what an Apprenticeship must entail by law.
A survey published this week shows that nine out of ten of those that complete an Apprenticeship are satisfied with their training and a third have received a promotion as a result. The same survey says that 88 per cent of employers conclude that Apprenticeships are a good investment in their business.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. We must be relentless in our drive to ensure all Apprenticeships are as good as the best, to identify and root out any instances of poor quality provision, and to raise the bar on standards.
Late last year, I announced a series of major reforms to drive up quality and standards and asked the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to develop an action plan to ensure that Apprenticeships routinely meet the rigorous standards apprentices and employers expect.
In the months since, we’ve taken strong and decisive action to tackle short duration Apprenticeships and review sub-contracting arrangements.
NAS and the Skills Funding Agency’s comprehensive review of all short duration programmes has already resulted in significant improvements to many Apprenticeships and the withdrawal of inadequate sub-contracted provision. From August 2012, all Apprenticeships for must last for a minimum of 12 months, ensuring they are of sufficient length to deliver the training employers need.
New safeguards are being put in place to strengthen monitoring, reporting and subcontracting arrangements. In addition, new contracts will ensure that training providers not only act according to regulations, but also within the spirit of the Apprenticeship programme.
I am committed to ensuring that they will receive the high quality training they deserve.”
I am determined to build on this momentum and intensify our efforts to safeguard and improve the quality and standards of Apprenticeships.
As I told members of the BIS Select Committee this week, the coming months will see still greater progress; NAS are reviewing Apprenticeship frameworks that have been deemed a cause for concern and we will publish new guidance on the implementation of quality standards. The Government will also take forward measures to ensure all apprentices are given the opportunity to get Level 2 English and Maths.
Following the National Audit Office report which made clear that for every£1 spent by the government on Apprenticeships there is an £18 return to the economy.
An employer-led standards review, expected to report this summer, is being undertaken to consider how effectively the Apprenticeships programme is delivery the professionally recognised qualifications and skills employers need, identify best practice and advise on how to maximise Government investment.
As more people than ever have the opportunity to undertake an Apprenticeship, I am committed to ensuring that they will receive the high quality training they deserve.
Apprenticeships embody a continuum of learning as one generation passes skills to the next – nourishing the national interest, nurturing the common good.
John Hayes is Minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning