AELP calls for ‘rethink’ on Richard’s plans

The government has been urged to “rethink” any plans to overhaul the apprenticeship system in line with the recommendations of former Dragons’ Den investor Doug Richard.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) warned against the introduction of plans outlined in The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Next Steps from the Richard Review, published in March.

The plans were described by Business Secretary Vince Cable as “radically changing” the way apprenticeships were delivered, putting employers in the “driving seat”.

More than 300 responses to the document had been received by officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) when consultation ended around two weeks ago.

AELP national policy manager Judy Brandon said in the association’s response to the consultation: “We are … so concerned by some of the suggestions outlined in this document that we feel compelled to urge the government to rethink before moving ahead.

“Having argued that apprenticeships are now hugely successful we are pleased that the government, in this latest consultation document, recognises that there is much to be proud of . . . it refers to ‘over 200,000 employer workplaces participated and over half a million new apprenticeships started’.

“That being the case, we really do not understand why it is now proposing to introduce what they themselves go on to describe as ‘a major programme of reform’.

“We believe that implementing all the proposals in this document would seriously threaten the continuing success of apprenticeships, which are rightly seen as the gold standard for work-based learning.”

The three-month consultation — which closed on Wednesday, May 22 — outlined Richard’s plans such as all apprenticeships targeted at skilled jobs, and new learning that would provide the foundations for a career and a springboard for progression.

It also suggested that training and accreditation of existing workers who were already fully competent should be delivered separately.

The consultation put forward 24 questions, including how to ensure that employers were better engaged with the development and oversight of the assessment in apprenticeships.

The consultation followed Mr Richard’s review of the apprenticeship system, published in November. Its 10 recommendations included a redefinition of apprenticeships and a focus on proficiency in English and maths.

However, he said that the “heart” of his proposals was a revamp of the way apprenticeships were paid for. Tax credits, or other forms of government incentives, should be dished out to employers as the government paid its part of apprentice training, he said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Colleges (AoC), in its response to the government consultation, proposed a “master” apprenticeship.

Skills policy manager Teresa Frith said: “All apprentices would ‘pass’ their apprenticeship and some may elect/be encouraged to take on an additional assignment that would seek to determine an element of ‘mastery’ over the ‘competence’ displayed within the apprenticeship.”

A BIS spokesperson said the department was “delighted” with the responses to the consultation, including contributions from employers “of all sizes”, private training providers, colleges, awarding organisations, professional and trade associations, and sector skills councils.

The government is due to publish its implementation plan for apprenticeships reform in the autumn.