British Airways own apprenticeship recruitment faces grounding after Ofsted visit

Apprenticeships at a major airline have been heavily criticised by Ofsted, which found “disorganisation” and “inconsistency” meant too many employees “did not see the value of being an apprentice”.

British Airways, an employer provider which is drawing down government apprenticeship funding for over 500 of its own staff, was found to have made ‘insufficient progress’ in one area and ‘reasonable progress’ in two others in an early monitoring report.

Apprenticeship providers that make ‘insufficient progress’ are typically suspended from taking on and training their own new apprentices by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

A BA spokesperson said they do not believe the report was a “fair” assessment of its provision and claimed that inspectors only spoke to three per cent of apprentices.

They also pointed out that Ofsted’s inspection only looked at the apprenticeship programme that BA delivers itself – the level 3 cabin crew standard.

The airline also has apprentices in a number of other areas, such as engineering, customer service, head office, and cargo, which were not subject to the inspection as they are delivered by other providers.

While apprentices on the level 3 cabin crew standard are “proud” to work for the employer provider, Ofsted found they are “frustrated by the disorganisation and inconsistent approach they experience in their apprenticeship”.

As a result, many of the ones inspectors spoke to “do not see the value of being an apprentice”.

Inspectors said they are not “sufficiently aware” they are even on an apprenticeship when they are recruited.

The arrangements that have been put in place with a subcontractor to ensure apprentices gain English and maths qualifications are not effective, the report reads, and too many learners failed their maths exams.

Leaders and managers do not ensure staff are giving apprentices clear information about what to expect in their end-point assessment.

This has meant apprentices do not know enough about what the assessment will involve when they come to that point in their programme.

Trainers are also not granted sufficient time before they start their sessions to take prior knowledge into account, so they cannot alter the delivery to meet apprentices’ needs sufficiently.

And while BA was found to have made ‘reasonable progress’ in safeguarding, managers have recognised an issue around apprentices feeling “patronised” and instances of “intimidating behaviour while flying”.

Inspectors reported actions taken in response to this “have not had sufficient impact in improving the experience for a few apprentices”.

A spokesperson for the airline said they “do not believe the report offers a fair assessment” of their cabin crew scheme and Ofsted’s findings are “at odds with the positive feedback we receive from the vast majority of our apprentices”.

They added that BA “remains committed to investing in our people” and will continue to work closely with Ofsted following the monitoring visit.

Apprentices do receive appropriate training, inspectors found, and thanks to the training they become “competent and compliant” cabin crew members who can work safely, in a short period of time.

This is because they benefit from learning in “high-quality” training facilities which reflect their on-board experience “exactly” and trainers utilise their expert knowledge to teach legislative requirements and health and safety regulations.

For example, they teach apprentices to understand the ‘ditching’ process – where a plane has to land in water in an emergency – and practical activities are used to check learners know how to open and close doors securely.

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  1. How can so many Providers and big ones with the cash and Colleges get it so wrong. Could this be
    Ofsted on the war path about quality or saying ESFA your wrong on your compliance testing.
    Could it be Ofsted being over and above what they say they will do due to poor training on the new framework.
    Could it be just not enough funds on Apprentices to do the job 100% ?

  2. fiona smith

    So another example of an employer who previously paid £m’s of their own money on a commercial basis in their own superb facilities have converted it to an apprenticeship and not surprisingly most people dont know it is an apprenticeship

    So they use their levy and the cost to the public purse per apprentice is much more than they would have paid commercially

    This is seen as an investment by the BA but it is no such thing. They wouldnt use their levy if someone hadnt invented a standard in cabin crew and when there was no levy, there was a framework which hardly anyone used and was withdrawn

    Absolutely ridiculous to invent an apprenticeship when there was a commercial solution that provided exactly what BA needed

    I am not criticising BA per see but the whole process of standards that convert existing commercial training to an Apprenticeship when it isnt really an Apprenticeship.

    Whats next – i bet they are suspended from recruiting but conveniently find a provider to enrol on their contract so avoid any halting of activity and can still use their levy – what a nonsense

  3. Philip Gorst

    Oh how I enjoy my weekly rant!
    I have worked in the transport industry as a trainer for many years. Ofsted agreed that the BA training was good, and that learners were seen to make good progress in their development.
    Fiona made very good comments in her response above – in all transport industries, the safety of the travelling public is paramount and underpins all training.
    Hence – if an aircrew joins BA from another carrier (a very common occurrence which also works the other way round), then the new recruit has to be trained in being ‘brand and type specific’. This might be as basic as customer greetings, or as specific as aircraft type, seating, emergency procedures and the like. Irresepctive of experience, all new recruits have to go through this training and be signed off as competent at the end of it.
    Ofsted found little or no fault with this, but nit-picked around the edges, and this is what Ofsted’s big problem is – they send in an inspection team with no sapiential awareness of the industry they are inspecting.
    So, the tick box form comes out – ‘safeguarding’, ‘functional skills’, the phrase ‘apprenticeship’.
    Meanwhile, the head of Ofsted has been banging on this week about how colleges and training providers ‘don’t get it’.
    So, here’s the solution – Ofsted takes over all funded training and runs the Apprenticeship programmes along their own lines. All providers are governed from the outset by Ofsted, and then nirvana will have been achieved – every single apprenticeship provider receives a grade 1, every single programme is matched perfectly with every learners job aspirations, and all will be well with the world.

    Yeh, right.

    • BA entry requirements for suitable candidates should have a minimum educational level that includes GCSE in maths and english. …..
      Set an initial standard at a reasonable level that indicates that candidates are motivated and are achievers………