Level two apprenticeships should be fully funded by the government at every age group, the AELP has said.
This bold but uncosted recommendation is part of a “major” policy submission discussing the way the apprenticeship reforms are “undermining” the prime minister’s social mobility agenda.
If actioned, it would mean the government was paying for around 70 per cent of apprenticeships.
The AELP also wants 16- to 18-year-old apprentices to receive full funding regardless of level.
To offset this cost, the body wants the government to “raise the employer co-investment on a new sliding scale”.
This would start “with 10 per cent at level three, 20 per cent at level four, 30 per cent at level five, 40 per cent at level six and 50 per cent at level seven apprenticeships for apprentices over the age of 19”.
But in an exclusive interview with FE Week, the AELP’s boss Mark Dawe admitted his association had not fully costed the policy.
“We haven’t done a detailed costing because we haven’t got all of the data to hand but we do know that level twos were fully funded in the sense that there was no employer contribution,” he said.
“Now obviously funding rates have changed so it needs to be run through again and I think the whole point of what we’re saying is that at the higher levels there are clear benefits to the employee and the employer and the real focus needs to be on those first steps at level two.”
Pressed on whether the recommendation would undo the government’s attempts to introduce employer contributions, Mr Dawe admitted it would, “but only for level two”, which he admitted made up a “significant” number of all apprenticeships.
It is too early to simply reintroduce full funding for all apprenticeships
It is also meanwhile “up for debate” as to how the full funding would be rationed at level two, for example by going back to an allocations based model.
He confessed he had not consulted with his members on the policy as it was an “early proposition” for debate.
The plan has not been met with great support from the FE sector’s other top association boss.
“The report raises some important issues which are worth following up, but it is too early to simply reintroduce full funding for all small employers and all apprenticeships,” said David Hughes, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges.
“That’s just one of the many changes to the apprenticeship programme in the last year and it is important that the government monitors and discusses the overall impact of those changes,” he said.
Beyond this proposal, AELP’s paper raises 14 other points it believes the government needs to address in its apprenticeships reforms in order to remove the “obstacles” to social mobility.
For instance, the AELP contends that “the rigid implementation” for 20 per cent off-the-job training is “reducing our recruitment of level two apprentices”, and that the training time for maths and English which is required “in addition” places “the heaviest burden on employers”.
Levy-paying employers are meanwhile “prioritising existing employees for apprenticeships instead of recruiting new entrants and giving young people an opportunity, further restricting opportunities for young people”.
“The message came out from Downing Street over the summer that social mobility was still the number one priority for the government after securing a good deal for Brexit,” Mr Dawe writes.
“Education ministers therefore need to get a firm grip on the apprenticeship reforms to stop a potential haemorrhaging of young talent missing out on opportunities that employers were previously willing to offer.”