A ten-point plan to help deliver the government’s 3m apprenticeships target has been issued by senior apprenticeship official Jennifer Coupland (pictured above).
Ms Coupland, head of the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation (BIS) and Department for Education (DfE) apprenticeship unit, reeled off the points at a seminar themed ‘Where next for apprenticeships’ on Wednesday (November 11).
An audience of more than 300 delegates at the Westminster Employment Forum event listened to her discuss hitting the “huge” 3m target, but little detail was given on the apprenticeship levy with the spending review looming.
She said: “It [the target] actually means having more than one apprentice starting an apprenticeship every minute for the next five years — so that is quite a sobering thought.”
To tackle the target, Ms Coupland revealed her ten-point strategy to grow apprenticeship starts from “2.4m in the previous five years” to 3m by the end of this Parliament.
She said: “The first round of the strategy is all about quality.
“The key here is that we ought to take forward that we have started trailblazers — so putting employers in control of designing the standards that apprentices train against and the assessment plans that they will be assessed against to insure that they really are competent to do the job that they have been training to do.”
She then said the second was “employerrouted funding”, the third focused on “the public sector”, to encourage more apprenticeships, and the fourth strand was helping “small businesses”.
It was followed by the fifth strand which will be focused on engaging with “large businesses”.
The other strategy points listed for apprenticeship success were “marketing and communications”, “careers advice and guidance”, and “delivery of training and working with providers”.
She said: “This bit of the strategy is around the supply and delivery of training and working with providers, and getting FE colleges and training providers geared up so that they’re in a good position to offer the training that employers will want.”
A “steady state system of apprenticeship governance” and, having more focus on “degree and higher level apprenticeships” were the final points.
Following Ms Coupland’s talk, Ofqual executive director for vocational qualifications Jeremy Benson discussed, among other issues, the “life cycle of qualifications”.
He said: “For a qualification to work effectively it needs to do more than to be well designed — it has to be delivered and it has to be kept under review.”
Mr Benson said: “Ofqual looks at what awarding organisations are doing and how they regulate.
“We don’t just look at the qualification, we look at all the other things as well.”
He added: “People often think our focus is up front on checking the qualification process, but we don’t rely on that being the only thing that is important.”
Outlining the ten-point plan
With reference to Trailblazers, Ms Coupland said this part of the strategy aims to put employers “in control of designing the standards that apprentices train against and the assessment plans that they will be assessed against” to ensure that apprentices are really competent in the job they have been training for.
She added: “The idea here is that if employers really value an apprenticeship programme, then more employers will come on board and offer apprenticeships.”
Full apprenticeship funding details will be announced in the upcoming Spending Review.
Ms Coupland said: “If employers have already invested in apprenticeships, we think many more will be wanting use the programme to get back what they’ve put in.”
She said that this money can then be used to generate useful training for people they want to employ.
3. Public sector
Ms Coupland said the government is “looking into measures to increase the public sector’s contribution to employing apprentices”.
She said the public sector employers around 1.7 per cent of their workforce as apprentices in comparison to the private sector which employ 2.3 per cent.
4. Small businesses
This strand of the strategy is about helping small businesses take on more apprentices.
Ms Coupland said teaching small businesses about how “easy to use tools” like Find an Apprenticeship can help “businesses fill their apprenticeship vacancies.”
5. Large businesses
Ms Coupland said: “We are also looking at large businesses and trying to make our strategy for engaging with very large companies much better.”
This will involve joining up with the cabinet office to make sure they are hearing a consistent set of messages about apprenticeships.
6. Marketing and communications
An efficient marketing and communications strategy to support the programme to generate more interest in apprenticeships is the next part of the strategy.
Ms Coupland said: “From research, it was interesting that parents were the main group who didn’t really understand types of things you can do as an apprentice.”
7. Careers advice and guidance
Ms Coupland said this strand is about good careers advice and guidance so “people are able to hear about apprenticeships and get the right information to make the right choices”.
The government will be working with enterprise advisers to spread the messages about the benefits of apprenticeships “successfully around”.
8. Delivery of training
Delivery of training and working with providers is the next part of the plan.
Ms Coupland said that this strand will aim to get FE colleges and training providers prepared so that “they are in a good position to offer training that employers will want” to expand programme take up numbers.
9. Steady state system
Ms Coupland said: “We are going to need a steady state system of apprenticeship governance.”
She said that after speaking to employers over the summer, they are quite keen that they move to a steady state set of arrangements where individual responsibilities are “very clear.”
10. Degree and higher level apprenticeships
To reach the 3m apprenticeship target, Ms Coupland said that “this does include growing more at the higher and degree level as a proportion of the overall programme”.
The government will be working with universities and other providers to develop higher apprenticeships to meet the needs of employers.