Employers blasted for ignoring apprenticeships they developed

Employers including the private healthcare giant Bupa have been criticised for not employing anyone on apprenticeships they developed, after FE Week found three dental standards which have had no learners in 18 months.

Analysis of latest government data shows that three apprenticeship standards – dental laboratory assistant, dental practice manager, and dental technician – were approved for delivery in March 2015.

They were designed and developed by 22 employers, including the dental wing of Bupa.

A spokesperson confirmed to FE Week that no apprentice had so far been taken on.

“We haven’t taken on any as yet, as we don’t have any relevant vacancies,” she said.

“However we will certainly look into the opportunity of taking on dental practice manager apprentices in the future.”

Asked what Bupa’s reasons could have been for designing but not using the standards, she replied: “We took part because we wanted to help shape the programme, and share our expertise.”

We haven’t taken on any as yet, as we don’t have any relevant vacancies

Dr Susan Pember, the former top skills civil servant and director at community learning services membership body Holex, criticised the employers who had developed the standards but hadn’t taken a lead with recruitment.

“It is a shame that the employers did not follow through,” she told FE Week. “The trailblazers were funded by the public purse and that money would have better spent on supporting students.”

She said that the situation demonstrated the need for the Institute for Apprenticeships to have “robust” systems in place to “stop this happening in the future”.

Mark Dawe, the boss of AELP, said it was “really good that FE Week are highlighting” the issue and pledged to make more providers aware that the standards exist.

Another provider involved with developing the standards, Integrated Dental Holdings, claimed its business focus had changed over the last 18 months on creating its own dental nurse apprenticeship scheme.

As such, it claimed it had been forced to neglect the standards identified by FE Week.

Similarly, Oasis Dental Care said that even though it had contributed to the dental practice manager standard, they hadn’t taken on any apprentices because their focus has since been on the delivery of its own “practice manager academy”.

We continue to work with employers to increase take up of apprenticeships

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it was still “committed to providing the best training opportunities for the next generation of dental professionals”.

“In November 2016, the trust applied to join the register of apprenticeship training providers as an employer provider, so that we can continue to employ and train apprentices at King’s,” said a spokesperson.

The Department for Education has changed the rules to require commitment from employers on Trailblazer groups that they will use the standard with their employers.

A spokesperson said: “We now require all groups of employers bidding to develop a standard to commit themselves to using it.”

Government guidance also states: “We expect each trailblazer employer to commit individually to taking on a particular number of starts, and once a trailblazer has standards ready for delivery, we will expect you to work with other employers and stakeholders to promote their use.”

The DfE would not directly state its views on the lack of trailblazer employer recruitment of apprentices on the standards.

“We continue to work with employers to increase take up of apprenticeships,” was all the spokesperson would say.

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  1. This highlights again how difficult it is to get representative SME employer engagement and input. The development of inappropriate and unwanted Standards will be the inevitable consequence in many sectors. When will those in their ivory towers finally grasp the crucial contribution made by training providers in driving the whole system they want implemented. Give the training providers the respect and support they deserve and let them get this job done for you!