Skills minister will 'look at whether it is right to continue to fund all apprenticeships'

The skills minister has said she will “look at whether it is right” for the government to “continue to fund all apprenticeships”.

Anne Milton made the remarks as part of a wide-ranging video interview with Association of Colleges’ boss David Hughes this afternoon, after she was unable to stay for questions at the association’s annual conference last month.

“We will need to look ahead, when the system is really running well – and I think we’re nearly at that stage – when we need to look at do we continue to fund apprenticeships for people who are already in work, people doing second degrees,” she said.

We now need to look at whether it is right to continue to fund all apprenticeships

“We now need to look at whether it is right to continue to fund all apprenticeships, particularly at the sort of levels that we’re talking about,” she said.

Ms Milton’s comments come just a day after FE Week exclusively revealed that the apprenticeships budget could be overspent by £0.5 billion this year alone – in large part because of the surge in people doing expensive management apprenticeships.

And Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman raised concerns about levy funds being spent on higher level apprenticeships at the expense of young people on lower levels, during today’s annual report launch.

“Levy funding is, in many cases, falling far short of the intended spirit of the policy. In some cases we’re seeing levy funding subsidising repackaged graduate schemes and MBAs that just don’t need it,” she said.

Ms Milton was responding to a question from Mr Hughes specifically about the points raised by Ms Spielman on “degree apprenticeships, apprenticeship for people who are already in work, people who are in decent jobs, doing an MBA”.

She acknowledged that such courses “cost a lot of money”.

We are now starting to look at the future of the apprenticeship levy

“We are now starting to look at the future of the apprenticeship levy. I think business might see that as a signal that we’re going to change it, and I think that’s extremely unlikely,” she said.

“I think in the first stages it was not unreasonable to have a very open system, taking money off business, as long as it’s an apprenticeship, 20 per cent off the job, lasts for more than a year, ticks all our boxes, you can do it,” she said.

The apprenticeships system “should be about that second, third, fourth chance” and “it’s also got to be about progression” – particularly in sectors where “people do a level two and stop there”.

“We want to increase their aspiration, that they could do a level three and critically a level four where we have traditionally been weak on in this country

“We’re looking at it all at the moment. I don’t want to set any hares running,” Ms Milton said.

Photo caption: Skills minister Anne Milton being interviewed by AoC chief executive David Hughes. The exchange above starts at 10 minutes into the video.