In the wake of the recent CBI report that criticised some of the work of the Institute for Apprenticeships, Sir Gerry Berragan says he recognises that there are improvements to be made
The Institute for Apprentices has welcomed the Confederation of British Industry’s recent report Getting Apprenticeships Right. It reiterated our central role in driving quality in apprenticeships and T-levels. We welcomed many of its recommendations, particularly those that highlighted the role of employers leading the development of standards to plug the skills gaps in our workforce.
The institute is an employer-led organisation and how we engage our core stakeholders – particularly employers – is a key element of how we function. One of the main themes of the report was a need for the institute to engage more closely with employers over funding decisions. This is not new feedback. As we are in regular contact with employers, we understand their desire for greater transparency on funding decisions. As a result, we have launched a review into how we engage employers and how we might be more transparent about our funding band process.
Our funding band recommendations are about balancing the cost of delivering high-quality apprenticeships with ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. The purpose of the review is to ensure employers better understand how those decisions are made and where in the process they can have most influence. We will welcome feedback from employers, training providers and awarding organisations in support of this review through the consultation phase.
The report also suggested that the institute could be faster at approving standards. We launched our Faster and Better programme in February last year with the aim of working more closely with employers to refine our processes so that standards could be identified, developed and approved more quickly and effectively.
We are learning, growing and taking on new responsibilities
This programme has already demonstrated success as we approach the publication of our 400th standard. We are now looking to a second wave of improvements and to having 500 approved standards before the end of this year – and I am confident that we will achieve this. We will seek to achieve similar pace and momentum in developing T-levels.
I was gratified that the CBI report noted that employers largely had positive relationships with our staff, particularly our relationship managers (RM) who work with employers throughout this process. But the report highlighted that some of our staff lacked commercial awareness, which can put a strain on this relationship.
We have already taken action on this and have committed to developing the commercial expertise of our RMs. It is possible for them to build considerable knowledge and insight over time across a caseload of often up to 40 or 50 different occupations.
We are still a relatively new organisation, learning, growing and taking on new responsibilities. Reports such as the one published by the CBI are essential to hear, understand and respond to employers’ perspectives. We recognise that we can improve how we work with employers, as well as streamlining our processes and improving transparency. This is a journey of continuous improvement that has no end; we will always strive to review and improve.
The clear message from employers is they value the institute and the work we do. The CBI report recognises the integral and long-term role the institute has at the heart of technical education and wants to see more. I am confident that we can deliver the reforms needed in technical education to support learners today and in the future. We are very grateful for the continued support of employers and conscious of the significance of the work we are doing collectively to address the nation’s productivity challenge.