Game over for level 2 business admin apprenticeship


Hopes for a level 2 business administration standard were shattered today after the new boss of the government’s apprenticeship quango rejected a final plea from employers.

Following years of repeated rejections under Sir Gerry Berragan, the trailblazer group behind the proposal was given a glimmer of hope with Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) chief executive Jennifer Coupland.

She agreed to a final showdown meeting, in which the employers were asked to present new evidence to prove the standard could pass the required criteria.

A chainsaw couldn’t do a better job of removing the bottom rungs of the ladder

FE Week analysis shows that the popular framework version of the apprenticeship, which will be officially switched off from 31 July, attracted 3,064 starts from 346 providers in the first quarter of 2019/20. Of these, 74 per cent were female and 59 per cent were for those under the age of 19.

Over 100 employers have rallied for a replacement standard, but Coupland took no time to make a decision, telling the hopeful trailblazers it was game over by the end of today’s meeting.

Not only did she reject their proposal on the grounds it would never meet the 12 month minimum duration requirement, but she also told them they will not be allowed to submit any further applications for the standard.

This is despite staff in the Department for Education’s traineeship team considering alternative programmes but allegedly ultimately agreeing with the trailblazer group that the proposal should be developed into a level 2 apprenticeship standard.

Lucy Hunte, the national programme manager for apprenticeships at Health Education England, attended the meeting as a member of the trailblazer group and said she was “extremely disappointed” with Coupland’s decision.

“It [the standard] is a vital entry route into the NHS and many other sectors and [this decision] will be incredibly damaging to social mobility,” she told FE Week.

Caroline Bragg, the employability and skills strategy manager at East Sussex County Council and trailblazer lead for the proposed standard, said the IfATE “seems intent on leaving behind tens of thousands of young people who access level 2 apprenticeships each year”.

“There seems to be a lack of understanding of who a level 2 learner is and the barriers facing them,” she added.

In previous rejections of the proposal, the IfATE has cited concerns about overlap with the business administration standard that is approved at level 3.

They’ve also claimed that the duties set out are “not stretching enough to require 12 months employment and training”, including the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement.

Hunte said if young people leave school without maths and English GCSE then they “simply won’t be able to access a level 3 and in addition many of the entry level roles would not cover the scope of the level 3 business admin standard”.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said: “It’s really difficult to understand why an organisation, which is now pushing really hard the line that it’s independent and employer led, is going against the wishes of large and small employers in both the public and private sectors.

“Only today the secretary of state has said that he wants ‘funding helping to kick-start careers or level up skills and opportunities’ and here we have a prime example of that agenda being undermined for so many young people who want to get on the ladder of opportunity which the apprenticeship programme provides. A chainsaw couldn’t do a better job of removing the bottom rungs of the ladder.”

He added: “It is about time the officials went on tour and met some of these level 2 learners and employers and told them to their face that they weren’t proper apprentices and had no value for the employers.

“The tour could start by meeting the numerous level 2 business admin apprentices working in the department for education.”

Making the case for the standard during today’s meeting, the employer group presented a final proposal document.

It stated that only 20 per cent of the new apprenticeship standards are available at level 2. In contrast, more than 40 per cent of the old-style frameworks were previously available at this level.

We appear to have another potential sexual discrimination problem

“This will have a significant impact on opportunities for new entrants, particularly young people, progression opportunities within the workplace, and on social mobility overall,” the document said.

“The loss of the business admin level 2 will impact young people disproportionately. In recent years, approximately 30,000 apprentices per annum undertook [the framework], and 83 per cent of these were under 19.

“Removal of the framework will have an impact on in-work progression for existing staff. For example, the NHS has numerous examples of auxiliary staff moving into administration roles through the business administration level 2, and they are unable to access learning at Level 3 or evidence the requirements through their role.”

After being shown that 74 per cent of the starts on the level 2 business admin framework between August and October 2019 were for females, Dawe said it “illustrates again that we appear to have another potential sexual discrimination problem when it comes to giving women high quality apprenticeship opportunities at an early stage of their working lives”.

“I called on the authorities to undertake some research last autumn and I would like them to respond positively to establish how big a problem we really have,” he added.

A spokesperson for the IfATE said: “We only agree apprenticeships where they meet the new higher quality standards.

“Unfortunately, we did not feel that this was the case when the business support assistant proposal was not approved for development last June. Institute officials met representatives of the trailblazer earlier this week but concluded that there was no prospect of a revised proposal being viable.

“Take up on the level 3 business administrator apprenticeship standard has more than doubled since it launched in 2017, which shows there is already a great route to skilled employment in an administrative role.”


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  1. Just picking up on a small aspect of this article… Where does sexual discrimination come into this?
    People make their own choice of courses to attend, I use the term people in respect of those not identifying specifically as a gender role. Which brings into question should this way of measuring a course validity for uptake be relevant any more. Is there gender bias by its removal?
    This platform level is needed to fill the gap for those who may not of had success in their secondary education, for those attending schools that were failing themselves, for those that have more success with a single subject focus on learning or even are practical or kinaesthetic learners.
    Additionally, level 2 is an excellent method to introduce the possibility of continued professional study and development, giving learners the opportunity for success and even the choice to change professional direction with confidence using the skills they have gained.

    • Philip Gorst

      Katrina – you are absolutely correct on all points.
      We, and every other training provider, has had a ton of experience of taking a worried, nervous, non confident learner onto a level 2 programme and watching them blossom.
      We have seen the same people grow to level 3 and 4 qualifications, taking on more responsible positions, managing staff and projects – goals in their achievements that they never dreamt of.

      I say again – the whole process of adult learning is ‘run’ by people who do not have a clue. The whole process is driven by money (or the lack of it).

      Hey, the people making the decisions will be pensioned up with public money in due course, and they will not care one jot, because they ‘did the job the best way they could’.

      Sad, sad, sad.

  2. Phil Hatton

    A week ago I asked an Advanced Business Admin apprentice why he had not taken a level 2 apprenticeship first. He explained his school had not mentioned apprenticeships when he said he did not want to do A levels but instead pushed him to do a full time college course for a year in business admin. Now I know what he would have been better doing? How do schools continue to get good and outstanding grades from Ofsted when the vast majority still refuse to promote apprenticeships to their pupils? I wonder why the numbers of 16-18 year old apprentices, to me one of the main reasons behind apprenticeships, is falling? Over the years I have seen many mistakes and this is one hell of an error. Give 16 year olds who want to get a job and training the chance. As far as equality is concerned, giving educationally disadvantaged youngsters is number one in my book, regardless of their gender. Gordon Franks Training published today typifies the good work done by providers – offering Education programmes for young people where all have been excluded from schools or colleges and business admin level 2 apprenticeships are one of the main areas they WOULD progress to, followed by level 3. Think of this one example of many. In their apprenticeship provision, nearly 80% of all apprentices do not have the required level of mathematics and/or English to start wit while a quarter of all learners across both programmes have a self-declared disability. New chief executive Jennifer Coupland had made a good start, forget whatever reasons you have been sold not to have a level 2 apprenticeship in business and give those who may have their lives transformed their chance.

  3. Eman ace

    Okay what have i just heard, this is not fair for young people who are now undertaking the level two course, this mean those young people who are doing the course they won’t get a job out of it.

    My question is: what is going to happen to those young people who are now doing the level 2 course, will they get a job or is it just a waste of time for them .

  4. Richard Brooks

    So an apprentice on a 12 month apprenticeship working 30 hours a week would be contracted for 1560 hours, 20% is 312 (this figure will then be reduced for allowed holidays). The total learning hours for the current Level 2 Diploma in Business Administration is 450 hours (229 to 351 Guided) – Source C&G website. Learners at this level will often require support for maths and English, many would find Level 2 functional skills a real stretch and not meet entry criteria for a Level 3. This is a real shame that a significant number of potential apprenticeships and opportunities for young people. The normal demographic training solution at Level 2 does seem to have been hijacked by the desire to push the degree apprenticeship agenda which whilst valuable in its own right should not be at the expense of others.

  5. Not a scooby, the lot of them. Them being the consultants, civil servants, ministers and assorted jobsworths (all of them in very comfy jobs on very nice salaries) who took a system which essentially worked for those who needed it most and turned it into an uncosted mess but it is OK because the country needs more MBAs.

    It is a tragedy what has happened to Apprenticeship training for those at the bottom, and for countless long established ITPs for whom the Levy and Standards have been nothing short of a disaster.

  6. Mark Boddy

    I totally agree with the comment about money driving the adult education sector. A vast number of school leavers have been left behind due to failing schools or teachers. When they start in the work environment and find they find out they need new skills or skills that weren’t shown at school. I have found that level 2 qualifications are an ideal starting point to build confidence.
    Also surly the numbers talk for themselves, over 3000 starts in the first quarter. If there is no level 2 to start adult education, we are likely to disadvantage these young adults yet again. I suppose it will allow more higher apprenticeships though, those with a masters or similar. Surely those should be paid for at university and not funded.