The Institute for Apprenticeships wants to develop “a reputation for providing honest, evidenced and high-quality leadership when developing opinion on apprenticeships and technical education”.
It also says it wants to use its “unique perspective to develop its authority and reputation as an expert and trusted source for information”, according to its five-year strategic plan published last week.
Talking with authority and honesty should be encouraged, but the lack of evidence for it so far is troubling.
The IfA has been quick to pat itself on the back for a “record breaking” June and hitting 300 standards approved for delivery, but falls silent when challenged over why it still hasn’t reviewed whether the standards developed over three years ago were ever fit for purpose.
The IfA has been quick to pat itself on the back for the rise in apprenticeship starts on standards, but neglects to mention that popular frameworks in sectors such as retail and hospitality were scrapped many months ago.
The IfA has been quick to pat itself on the back for end-point assessment organisation and external quality assurance coverage, but becomes passive-aggressive when asked whether coverage equates to capability.
The IfA has been quick to pat itself on the back for the increased proportions of apprentices starting on higher level apprenticeships, but never mind that an explosion in management apprenticeships accounts for half of them so far this academic year.
And alongside all the patting on the back, it was also shocking to hear the chief executive of the IfA, Sir Gerry Berragan, say in his speech to the annual AELP conference that once one issue is resolved, “people will have to find other reasons as to why they think the reforms aren’t working”.
This may well be a glimpse of what he’s really thinking, but it’s not the sort of thing a high-quality leader would say.
If it wants to become a trusted source of information, the IfA should discount standards where equivalent frameworks are no longer available the next time the minister claims the “number of people starting on new, higher-quality apprenticeships has increased by almost 1,000% this year.”
To develop a reputation as a source of expertise, the IfA should be publishing figures on changing markets, such as the explosion in higher level management apprentices,not leaving it to FE Week.
And high quality leadership in our sector is not combative. It requires a degree of self-awareness and reflection that people respect, even when they disagree with an opinion or decision.
If my perception of the IfA’s leadership is right, they will likely have dismissed this editorial before they even reach this sentence.
But quangos come and go. So if the IfA wants to see out its five-year plan, it will need to live up to being “professional”, the “P” in its four EPIC values.