If the Department for Education (DfE) wants to get more 17-year-olds onto apprenticeships then it will need to consider the role that the independent learning provider sector can play, says Stewart Segal.
In placing a focus on the development of technical and professional skills, it is good that the DfE review is of a wider set of skills than just technical skills and it should include the IT, finance, legal and managerial skills which are required across many different sectors.
The focus on getting more people on to an apprenticeship applies to all providers
In AELP’s view, the biggest skill shortage in the UK is managerial skills.
We hope the review will look carefully at the existing delivery systems and not jump to a conclusion that we need a ‘new system’.
Clearly there are improvements we can make to the current system and we know we need to encourage more people to take new routes to higher level skills but everyone in our sector knows that constant change can confuse our customers, so we need to be careful about the implementation of any ‘ground breaking reforms’. We are certainly not against change but it has to build on what works.
High quality technical and professional training is the key for both young people looking at job and career options as well as older people looking at career development.
Everyone will have a different entry point and that may be at all levels in the qualifications system. We need to ensure everyone has a chance to climb the ladder of opportunities including apprentices to give them a route to higher level skills.
For young people the routes into the world of work look complex and AELP has long proposed a stop to the constant changes to work preparation programmes and instead much more of a focus on traineeships and apprenticeships as the key routes, but not the only routes into work.
We are not sure about the target to create ‘up to 20 new specific routes’ into work or education because it sounds like a pre-conceived solution before we know what the problem is.
We hope that the DfE-appointed group will have an open mind to the solutions and that they will be customer focused and not focused on particular structures or institutions. Many different types of providers are involved in delivering technical and professional training and the solution must recognise that choice for learners and employers.
We support the option of apprenticeships as an important choice for young people and older workers looking to get the higher level skills that will move them into sustained employment.
Many young people in particular will need the support of the traineeship programme to get them their first step on the ladder.
As the DfE press release says, only 6.9 per cent of 17-year-olds take an apprenticeship which could be a lot higher if young people were given better information about their options at school.
There are many of those young people in jobs who are not apprentices and we need to ensure more of them participate in the programme.
The focus on getting more people on to an apprenticeship applies to all providers. Independent learning providers and colleges can deliver more apprenticeships, but it takes time and effort to get more employers to make the big commitment to employ an apprentice. We welcome the support of the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses in doing this, but we must have a responsive contracting and funding system that supports that growth.
Many technical and professional apprenticeship programmes are delivered by partnerships of private and college providers where the college might provide some of the technical training.
These partnerships need to be recognised by the review and we will therefore want to work closely with the review group to ensure they consider all of the issues across the sector.