New ESFA apprenticeships director pledges ‘collaboration, communication, and clarity' with the sector

The Education and Skills Funding Agency’s new director for apprenticeships has pledged more “collaboration, communication, and clarity” as he bids to “strengthen relationships” with training providers.

Statements on building greater partnerships have this afternoon been published by Peter Mucklow, Association of Colleges boss David Hughes, and Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe.

They come as the government develops its recovery package following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mucklow, who took over the top apprenticeships role from Keith Smith in the ESFA last month, said that since his appointment, he has been “immensely proud of the tenacity and adaptability of our innovative provider base, employers of all sizes, apprentices, end-point assessment organisations and wider stakeholders in dealing admirably to the situation we find ourselves in”.

However, “I can see opportunities for improvement in how we work with you all,” he added.

“A great apprenticeship requires an equal contribution from employers, apprentices and providers. As we look to develop and deliver a recovery package to support employers, individuals and the economic recovery, I want to strengthen how the apprenticeships directorate works with all apprenticeship providers.”

Mucklow said he wants collaboration “to be the ‘golden thread’ that permeates through all our relationships for the benefit of apprentices and employers”.

“I want early and meaningful communication and engagement with the sector about our plans. Trusted communication is two-way and I want to focus more on bringing our providers closer together with the ESFA through greater – and more productive – partnerships on the ground.

“Finally, I want a greater clarity about the future of apprenticeships; a common understanding of the clear benefits and value that apprenticeships bring to employers, apprentices, local communities, and the economy.

“Collaboration, communication, and clarity. That’s my commitment to the sector.”

Hughes said he was “pleased” that ESFA recognises the partnerships it needs to forge with colleges and other providers.

“An apprenticeship is a complex animal, requiring joined-up action and commitment from the apprentice themselves, alongside the employer, the college or training provider and government,” he added.

“Reflecting that collaboration is important in communications and policy.”

Dawe said AELP was “delighted to have had constructive conversations with ESFA and welcomes this announcement by Peter Mucklow which offers greater collaboration, communication and clarity, as we work together on making apprenticeships a vital component of the economic recovery”.

“Having performed miracles to keep thousands of apprentices learning remotely during the lockdown, providers are now facing the challenge of keeping apprentices in employment as the furlough scheme ends and AELP knows that they will pull out all the stops in doing so,” he added.

“We also want to generate new opportunities and this means encouraging employers to look at the benefits of the programme. As Peter says, this can only happen if there is a common understanding between ESFA, AoC and AELP, working with the local provider groups, on the messages to employers, apprentices and other stakeholders such as parents and teachers.

“The pandemic has reminded us that out of adversity comes opportunity, and AELP sees this new approach from the ESFA as a fresh chapter in collaboration which should help transform the skills landscape across the country. “