The SFA has been entrusted with meeting the government’s target of 3m apprenticeships starts in England during this Parliament. Peter Lauener outlines measures to help reach the goal.

One of the government’s key manifesto commitments is to create 3m apprenticeships by 2020 in England. Last week, Richard Harrington MP was announced as the Prime Minister’s apprenticeships adviser to help the government achieve this commitment.

Creating 3m apprenticeship starts in the next five years is a challenge. But it’s achievable and meeting the target is an economic imperative. My team will be supporting the Prime Minister’s new apprenticeships adviser in his drive to secure greater engagement of employers in delivering more apprenticeships.

Providers must continue to improve the quality and responsiveness of the training to better meet employer needs

If we are to meet this Parliament’s 3m target, it is essential that apprenticeships are really owned and driven by employers.

More than 1,200 employers in over 100 sectors are already involved in the Trailblazer programme, which sees groups of employers designing new apprenticeship standards themselves. The aim is to increase the numbers and sectors involved, giving greater control to more employers, focusing particularly on new occupations where there have not been apprenticeships before.

And on both apprenticeships and traineeships, we need to work closely with all our partners to make both programmes a success.

There is a strong role for both FE colleges and independent learning providers in helping to stimulate demand from employers for apprenticeships. They must continue to improve the quality and responsiveness of the training to better meet employer needs.

But we also need more employers to get involved in apprenticeships for the first time. We have a successful base to build from — the number of workplaces involved in apprenticeships has grown from 173,600 in 2010/11 to 240,900 in 2013/14.

But there is definitely room for improvement — this still represents less than 14 per cent of the employer population.

As well as securing more apprenticeships in the private sector, the public sector has a key role to play.

Skills Minister Nick Boles has announced proposals for public bodies to lead by example and recruit more apprenticeships.

Everyone involved in apprenticeships will support the ambition for we want apprenticeships to be seen on an equal footing with university as routes to a successful career. That’s why the government is increasing the number of higher and degree apprenticeships, allowing apprentices to gain a full Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree while working and employers to shape the graduate/post-graduate level skills they need.

It is important that young people make informed choices about their future careers and are made aware of all of the options available. The National Careers Service ensures that young people are provided with advice about the benefits of and routes into apprenticeships and traineeships.

Achieving the 3m target will increase productivity growth in the economy by raising the overall level of skills and ensuring that the skills of the workforce best match the needs of employers.

The SFA will be doing everything we can to support the achievement of this critical ambition.