IfATE boss: Business admin level 2 ‘undermines’ efforts to create ‘well-regarded’ programme

The chief executive of the government’s apprenticeship quango has defended the decision to reject a business administration standard at level 2 – claiming it would “undermine” efforts to create a “well-regarded” programme.

Last week FE Week revealed how Jennifer Coupland had shattered hopes for the apprenticeship after she turned down a final plea from employers.

Addressing delegates on the second day of the sixth Annual Apprenticeship Conference this afternoon, the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education boss tackled criticism of the decision head on.

She made clear it was “nothing to do with being averse to level 2”, but simply that the proposal did not meet the required length or quality of an apprenticeship standard.

And when quizzed on why she would not entertain another proposal for the standard, Coupland said she wants to be “blunt” and not give the employers “false hope”.

Here’s what she said during her speech in full:

“I know that one of the big stories last week in the world of apprenticeships and in the conference room this morning was the institute’s decision not to endorse a level 2 business administration proposal.

“I want to talk briefly about why we made that decision. Firstly, take-up on the new level 3 business administration standard has more than doubled since it launched in 2017. That shows there is a great route into skilled employment in an administrative role via an apprenticeship and appetite from providers, apprentices and employers for that.

“And as Doug Richard said in the Richard Review, apprenticeships should not be the only skill show in town, there should be a place for other forms of vocational training and pre-employment provision, and great classroom-based technical routes too.

“We have an opportunity now to really build a high-quality, well-regarded apprenticeship programme and the more we stretch the definition of an apprenticeship the more we undermine attempts to finally achieve that.

“So when we do hand out the apprenticeship label it must be an indicator of a high-quality training programme. It must be for training for skilled occupations that require at least a year of sustained and substantial training to become competent in the role.

“The proposal for a level 2 business administration standard did not meet those tests and that is why we did not back it.

“To be really clear, this is nothing to do with being averse to level 2. There are plenty of level 2 qualifications that meet those tests. Since our establishment the institute has approved over 80 new standards at level 2 across a huge variety of fields.

“We have level 2 apprenticeships for plasterers, for scaffolders, for bricklayers, for sewing machinists, for beauticians, health care support workers, hospitality team members, hair professionals, culinary chefs, and even fish mongers, and that is just a few.

“More than half a million people across the country have now received much better skills training because of this new and more rigorous employer-led approach to setting standards for apprentices.

“To count as an apprenticeship an occupation must take at least a year to learn, there must be scope for a minimum 20 per cent off-the-job training. It is a high bar set by both us and employers themselves, and the reality is that sometimes proposals for new apprenticeships won’t reach it.”

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  1. Joanne kitchen

    Well, the last paragraph completely contradicts what was said above. “Employer Led”, but not in Admin Level 2’s case – then it’s Jennifer Coupland, from the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education decision, which totally goes against employers wishes. Hmmmmm. Me thinks the introduction of T Levels might have influenced that decision. Remember one size doesn’t fit all.

  2. Gemma H

    I’m in two minds about this decision.
    As an employer we have been looking for an entry level Administrator and when I’ve approached a variety of apprenticeship providers and asked how they deliver the 20% it’s been very vague and still seems to be 4-6 weekly visits with most delivery being by us the employer. As a small employer we want our apprentice to have training from external sources to give them a more rounded experience (and because quite frankly no-one at work is going to have the time to teach them about verbal/non verbal communication, body language and different questioning techniques but its incredibly valuable content).

    As a training provider, comparing our Standard, which includes weekly attendance, against an Customer Service or Admin Standard that has 4-6 weekly visits with a funding band of only £500 less is very frustrating.

    So maybe it’s the right decision… maybe not. I just know I still haven’t found the right Apprenticeship offer for our small business.

  3. I would suggest this decision has very little to do with the merits of a L2 Standard and everything to do with money. The Apprenticeship budget is out of control, both the Institute and ESFA have historic data to show what probable uptake would be, and there is no money to pay for additional thousands of starts. Many of whom would probably come with low prior scholastic achievement, and require additional learning support, drawing down even more money from the budget. Pretty obvious what is going on here.

  4. I.Ron Pyrites

    This decision has little or nothing to do with rigour and everything to do with finance. L2 Business Admin has always been a popular route with both employers and apprentices. It responds to a training need which many businesses have. Were they to have approved it, the cost would have been unaffordable. We know this, they know this, but no one will come out and say it in public. Instead, we get nonsense, platitudes and twaddle

  5. David Armory

    If employers have a strong enough case for an apprenticeship then get denied, there should be an alternative offered to meet their needs.
    One solution may be strengthening the Traineeship route to include such skills?