By the time you read this, it will be just 90 or so days until we know the general election result, although it could be several days or even weeks before we know who will be governing us.
Indeed the 2015 general election may be the catalyst for a radical change in British politics possibly leading to proportional representation and even federal government.
This must be better than the appeasement political decisions that have led to the current bizarre devolution situation we find ourselves in today. It’s one that could cause a constitutional crisis as England realises the inequality of taxation in services, especially in education and health, between the four countries.
So what has this to do with skills training and apprenticeships?
We engage with national and international companies who are bemused that a geographically small country like Britain does not have a national skills policy and apprenticeship provision. They find it bizarre that eligibility, content and access is totally different in each of the four nations.
We try to facilitate, where possible, a single apprenticeship programme for national companies to meet their needs, rather than submit to the processes of the individual devolved countries.
So why does this matter now? Well in coalition, Scottish MPs from the SNP may wish to impose the Scottish apprenticeship and skills agenda onto England, however inappropriate, or the Welsh MPs may recommend cost savings by slashing the FE and skills budget as they have done in Wales.
More seriously are the consequences of the ‘localism’ agenda, which seems to have got entrapped into the devolution debate. Local enterprise partnerships (Leps), which initially started as a sop to Heseltine’s second regeneration report, are not only becoming more influential but are increasingly gaining more spending power which is only likely to increase as all parties appear committed to more localism.
With three months of politicking to go we will hear more and more inflated promises on increasing apprenticeships at a time when they are in flux and employers are confused
The haphazard way they were allowed to develop, creating their own boundaries outside of local or regional government boundaries with some covering extremely large geographical areas while others just covering a single town creates problems for a national provider to liaise with all of them.
Whatever the election results, we are sure the spending power and influence of the Leps will increase and we are planning how we will liaise face to face with each of them.
With three months of politicking to go we will hear more and more inflated promises on increasing apprenticeships at a time when they are in flux and employers are confused.
Do we really believe a different in-coming government would implement planned reforms of an out-going administration?
The track record of the 61 ministers who have had control of apprenticeships over the last three decades would not support this. Each minister has wanted to put their, or their party’s, agenda into place.
With at least 700 Trailblazer apprenticeship standards still needed to be developed, there will be a vacuum in provision.
Nobody seems to be concerned that nearly all the current Trailblazers are coming in at the highest funding rates.
Even with employer contributions, which may or may not actually be implemented, government will be paying double what they are currently paying for basically the same qualifications.
I trust somebody at the funding agencies is doing the sums or we will end up in the same mess as the colleges’ capital building debacle.
If the current rates for the approved Trailblazers are implemented, the budget will have to double just to keep apprenticeship numbers at their current level without any additional funding for growth.
Hard analytical research into the assumed benefits of the trailblazer apprenticeships over the existing SASE ones needs to guarantee that at a time of cutbacks in all government expenditure, they are twice as good if they are going to cost government twice as much.
This is the unintended consequence of putting no financial controls into the design of the Trailblazers.
Whichever party or minister takes up the apprenticeship reigns in May, they will be handed a poison chalice.