It is very clear that many apprenticeship providers are struggling to persuade employers to buy into the new 20-per-cent off-the-job training rule.

So it comes as no surprise that it has been a hot topic this week at FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference, where many still single it out as the main barrier to greater employer engagement.

Sue Husband from the government’s national apprenticeship service was clear during her question and answer session (page 9) that significant training is central to quality apprenticeships.

We don’t want to return to low-paid apprentices not even knowing they are on a training course.

Like Ofsted, I think providers and employers need to publicly embrace the training requirement as an “entitlement” to the apprentice: make it a selling point rather than a sticking point.

Otherwise, will employer demand pick up enough to achieve the three million starts target? It felt very appropriate to include a presentation at AAC from a futurologist, but truth be told, nobody really knows how the reforms will unfold.

Official figures since May last year clearly show a major dip in demand, but I remain optimistic. Many more large employers, particularly in the public sector, will, I believe, recruit new and existing employees as apprentices in significant volume as new standards finally come on stream.

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