The government’s prison and probation service agency shot to the top 20 biggest apprenticeship providers last year after making it mandatory for all new prison officers to begin their career as an apprentice.
Analysis of provider-level apprenticeship starts data shows His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had just 20 starts in its first year of delivery in 2018/19 but grew to 2,387 in 2021/22.
This made the HMPPS the 19th largest training provider of apprenticeships in England for the whole of last year, according to numbers crunched by Apprenticeship Data Insight – operated by FE Week publisher Lsect Ltd.
HMPPS, which is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, appears to have ramped up its numbers after gaining quality approval from Ofsted. The inspectorate judged HMPPS to be making ‘reasonable progress’ across the board in an early monitoring visit report in July 2021 when it had less than 200 apprentices.
Since then, the agency has introduced a policy that states: “All new prison officers will begin their career by completing a custody and detention professional apprenticeship which should take 12 to 18 months to complete.”
HMPPS isn’t the first government department to introduce a mandatory apprenticeship policy for its staff. In 2019, the HMRC made it compulsory for all employees to enrol on an apprenticeship in response to a “requirement” to increase recruitment and training significantly.
But the move didn’t end well. Ofsted went into the tax office earlier this year and judged it ‘requires improvement’ overall after finding the mandatory apprenticeship approach was not appropriate as the HMRC did not have the structure or capacity to support the 2,500 employees it enrolled, an issue exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The HMRC later reversed its compulsory apprenticeship policy and the majority of its employees dropped out of their apprenticeship.
Asked by FE Week how HMPPS has built capacity in such a short space of time to train almost 2,000 apprentices a year itself, the Ministry of Justice said: “The MoJ is committed to ensuring that the apprentice programme was, and still continues to be implemented professionally and confidently, to benefit both graduates and prison-based colleagues alike.
“As the role and demands of prison officers continues to evolve and new requirements emerge, we will also continue to evolve our training provision and apprenticeship offer to ensure it remains fit for purpose and supports the requirements of a modern prison service.”
A spokesperson added: “Apprenticeships are just one of the many ways in which we invest in staff and keep the public safe by bolstering the frontline.”