Government lays out timeline for apprenticeship reforms

The government has laid out its timeline for implementing apprenticeship reforms over the next five years as it chases its target of 3m starts.

The 24-page English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 vision document, previewed by FE Week yesterday, was published this morning with key milestones for employers, providers and the government itself.

The document says a “consultation on public sector duty” due to be launched this month, and potentially in place from Autumn 2017, on forcing the employment of apprentices and public reporting of progress against apprenticeship targets.

Outcome-based success measures will also come into play from 2016/17, and from January 2018 performance tables will feature 16 to 18 apprenticeship results.

It also outlines how the new Digital Apprenticeship Service online portal will be rolled out from October, allowing employers to “select the most appropriate apprenticeships, choose a training provider and pay for apprenticeship training and assessment”.

An “integrated apprenticeships communication campaign” is expected from next month, while from next spring there will be a host of changes including, among others, protection for apprenticeship term from providers whose programmes do not meet statutory definition and the government will “set out plans for reform of technical and professional education”.

It further outlines the apprenticeship grant for employers as being extended to the end of 2016/17 and how expressions of interest, apprenticeships standards and assessment plans will be submitted to the new Institute of Apprenticeships body from April 2017.

And the end of National Insurance contributions for apprentices aged under 25 from April is listed, along with the publication of “top 100 apprenticeship employer lists” from next summer.

Meanwhile, updated guidance on the post-16 education area reviews is expected from February.

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  1. The 2020 ‘vision’ document defined core principles of quality for an apprenticeship which are bulleted below, along with my own comments and concerns:
    • It is a job in a skilled occupation
    – How can this type of apprenticeship be inclusive to unemployed students? It is obvious that a job will not be required for apprenticeships. Access to the end-tests is open to unapprenticed/unemployed students who can fast-track the system of apprenticeship. Although quality apprenticeships do require a job in a skilled occupation, anyone can buy the apprenticeship qualification by just doing the end-test!
    • It requires substantial and sustained training, lasting a minimum of 12 months and involving at least 20% off-the-job training
    – This means that the whole of the apprenticeship training can be delivered in college over 12 months, but the standard gives no minimum duration for work-based training?
    • It develops transferable skills, and English and maths, to progress careers
    – The college-based aspect of apprenticeship training will mainly consist of English and Maths training which seems to have been given priority over all other sorts of learning. How relevant and utilitarian this English and Maths training is to craft occupations remains highly questionable?
    • It leads to full competency and capability in an occupation, demonstrated by achievement of an apprenticeship standard
    – A college based training course and assessment regime is highly unlikely to lead to occupational competence and total capability – qualifications cannot cover the depth and breadth of knowledge apprentices learn at work. The apprenticeship standard is written on two sides of A4 – so how can it include all the skills, knowledge and attitudes an apprentice needs to demonstrate.
    • It trains the apprentice to the level required to apply for professional recognition where this exists
    – Professional recognition in crafts like plumbing are costly and ignored by most people in the occupation. It is unlikely that plumbers will want to join a membership body that alludes to Trailblazer double standards e.g. (i) those who time-served an apprenticeship for 4 years (ii) those who fast-tracked and just sat the end-test

  2. Mike Farmer

    You need to read the full 2020 vision report (not just the executive summary) to get the full picture. There’s a searing criticism of UK employers’ lack of commitment to skills training at paragraph 1.12 which says ‘Despite the skills shortages reported by employers, the investment of UK employers in training is low compared to international competitors and there has been a rapid decline over the last 20 years’. This is accompanied by a graph (Figure 2) showing this ‘rapid decline’ – the very same graph which SFA labelled ‘Market Failure’ in their presentation to the AOC Conference in November – see slide 6 at I think this might have been code for ’employer failure’, or perhaps the unwillingness of the SFA to admit it is the market working only too well! The 2020 report paragraph 1.13 (over?) optimistically claims that the apprenticeship levy will fix this. I’m not convinced. This is as much a fundamental business culture issue as it is one of tax and spend.

  3. anonymous

    2020 vision! – Gearing an entire FE system towards a mechanism that delivers low paid staff to businesses using public funds, by deftly side-stepping the minimum wage, is rather short sighted in my view or myopic if we prefer to use the word-smiths handbook.

    2020 vision – Can anyone think of anything cornea?

  4. Neat U turn over the end of SASE standards in 2017, now moved to 2017/18 if at all…

    So we will have dual running (SASE frameworks & new TB standards) for several years.

    If Uk employers have reduced training in the past 5 years – just as a apprentice numbers have ramped up; how does more apprentices = more training?

    Finally anyone else find the Gov public sector target of 2.3% of staff to become apprentices an odd figure?