Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has issued a call to arms after learning that less than a third of apprenticeships are currently delivered by colleges.
He told the Association of Colleges conference this morning that he “knows colleges are more than capable” of expanding in this space.
In an interview with FE Week after his speech, Zahawi stopped short of setting an “arbitrary target” for colleges to aspire to because it “is wrong for us to do that” but urged leaders to be “ambitious as possible”.
His message comes six years after then skills minister Nick Boles told the same conference to stop letting private providers “nick your lunch” – criticising colleges for failing to secure more government apprenticeships cash.
At the time, in 2015, around 27 per cent of apprenticeships were delivered by colleges.
Zahawi told delegates today: “I would love to see even more colleges involved in delivering apprenticeships.
“Currently around 30 per cent of apprenticeships are carried out in colleges, but if we really want to transform supply we will have to grow that number. I know colleges are more than capable of it.”
The education secretary said the country needs to “ensure far closer alignment between colleges and employers right across our skills system” – and listed off colleges’ role in upcoming local skills improvement plans and urged them to also get involved in other programmes like skills bootcamps.
Just 10 out of the 36 providers signed up to deliver the national rollout of bootcamps.
Zahawi refused to share his hypothesis about why colleges have not stepped up their apprenticeship delivery over the past six years.
But he told FE Week: “My call to arms is to say, look, the colleges that have really focused on this and are doing it well, I’d love you to learn from them, I’d love you to scale up because you are very much at the heart of communities.
“Join us on this journey and be ambitious about it.”