FE Week’s Nick Reinis speaking to the newly appointed chief executive of NAS at the Apprenticeship Quality Conference last week             Picture by Nick Linford

Recommendations on plans to introduce a minimum duration for 19+ apprenticeships have been passed by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to the skills minister.

The news was revealed by David Way, now interim chief executive of NAS, in an exclusive interview with FE Week on his first day in his new role.

Mr Way, previously NAS’ chief operating officer, fills the void left by Simon Waugh, who announced in January that he would be leaving for personal reasons in March after three years at the head of the organisation.

Although he declined to say what the Service suggested to John Hayes MP in their recommendation, Mr Way gave an insight into the difficulties surrounding a set timeframe for apprenticeships for people who are aged over 19.

From August, the minimum duration for apprentices aged 16-18 is 12 months.

He said: “What we’re having to balance is that where a 16-18 may have little work experience, when you get to 19 and above, many of the people taking apprenticeships have got some learning which needs to be accredited.

“So how would you design an apprenticeship programme if you had a new learner? It’s very clear to me that that would take a fair amount of time.

“And what’s a fair amount of time? Well employers say it’s between one and four years.”

He also added: “You might say that we have these people who are very experienced.

“You reach a point where they may be very experienced and there may be some value in having that experience accredited, but it’s not an apprenticeship.”

However, Mr Way said a public consultation was not needed at this time, instead suggesting it would be better to “give the clarity and then talk about what the judgement looks like” in the future.

Mr Way also revealed that he expects to be in the role for around a year while the future of the Skills Funding Agency is decided.

Mr Way said: “I’m delighted it’s not going to be just a few weeks and months. I’m certainly looking at it as a role that will go into the beginning of next year.

“It’s a long enough period to get stuck into it and take it into the next phase of apprenticeships.”

During which time, Mr Way said he hopes to build on the work to improve the quality of apprenticeships and issues around disability and equal opportunities.

“I think it’s an exciting period and a challenging period. There are lots of things going on.

“To highlight two of those; one is the work on employer ownership pilots with the UKCES, so it’s very interesting to see what innovations come up from there and I’m really keen that the standard of the apprenticeship offer doesn’t get left behind.

“Also, the apprenticeships hubs in the core cities to get lots of people engaging in apprenticeships there and generating lots of new ideas,” he said.

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  1. “You reach a point where they may be very experienced and there may be some value in having that experience accredited, but it’s not an apprenticeship.”

    Exactly. If employers see value in getting their people’s skill and experience accredited then that’s absolutely fine. And just like when procuring anything else that adds value to their organisation the employer, rather than the taxpayer, should pay for it.

    This is not a difficult concept to grasp and the mystery is why it has taken BIS and its agencies so long to work this out. One can cut them some slack for the Brown/Leitch years when oodles of public money was sloshing around, but to carry on the “let’s bulk buy lots of qualifications and the nation will become skilled” approach in the current financial climate is nothing short of bizarre.

  2. The Government needs to get the left hand talking to the right. Cathy Nutbrown reports that Qualifications for Early Years workers do not have to include Maths and English yet the very qualification (Early Years Apprenticeship)that does is not available to many of them. Childminders cannot be funded for apprenticeships as they are self employed and the Government has so far declined to grant alternative completion status. Local Authorities want staff trained to level 3 yet funding is being withdrawn for the over 25s even if they currently have no qualifications. Make your mind up!