The Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, Gordon Marsden, has hit out at a Government policy designed to cut the data returns and audit requirements needed to deliver apprenticeships.

Gordon Marsden spoke exclusively to FE Week and said: “The Government can talk about cutting red tape all they like.

“Any actions the Government takes to reduce red tape must also ensure the quality and reputation of apprenticeships is not compromised.”

The comments follow a package of new measures issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) last week, which plans to introduce reductions in ‘red tape’ and a ‘payment by outcomes’ approach to apprenticeship funding for large employers.

They must ensure the status of apprenticeships as a key part of any growth policy is not undermined by the short term pursuit of over inflated targets.”

Marsden went on to say: “This is particularly important as more and more data comes to light, which raises real questions about the status of some of the large number of short-term apprenticeships.”

FE Week first highlighted the rise of short 12 week apprenticeship programmes on the front cover of the June 13 pilot edition (click here)

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and Skills Funding Agency published a statement last week acknowledging concerns about the rapid surge of apprenticeships and the quality of training being provided.

The NAS statement said: “(We) will work with the Skills Funding Agency and look critically at apprenticeships delivered in a condensed way.”

Marsden added there should be increased vigilance from Ministers, the NAS, Officials and the Skills Funding Agency.

He said: “They must ensure the status of apprenticeships as a key part of any growth policy is not undermined by the short term pursuit of over inflated targets.”

Professor Alison Wolf, advisor to the Government on 14-19 vocational education, has also expressed her concerns about the policy: “Striking a balance between accountability and stifling bureaucracy is always hard.

“The people who have a real stake in the quality of education and training are the recipients; and so it is especially difficult to maintain quality when they are not the ones who actually choose or purchase their programme.

“This government recognised this when it abolished Train to Gain, but it needs to be aware that any programme which combines government purchases with quantitative outcome targets has built in problems of this sort.”


Nick Linford, Managing Editor of FE Week visited Downing Street to discuss apprenticeship policies




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  1. The apprenticeship brand needs to be carefully managed and protected. Careful monitoring of performance is required and this data needs to in the public domain.
    Politicans are always impressed by numbers, but bolstering starts on programmes such as 12 week apprenticeships do little for the brand.

  2. Chris Dempsey

    I think the Government needs to listen to what people want for workplace training. The large employers (and their employees)that we work with continually request standalone qualifications (NVQs, Awards, Diplomas and Certificates). Increasing funding for Apprenticeships is fine if there is a market out there for jobs but there just isn’t at this time. I don’t agree with Mr Marsden – the current red tape is just another issue that puts off both employers and providers from going down the Apprenticeship route.

  3. No if’s no buts….the average small employer just rolls his eyes when he has to be “interegated” on H&E and participate in multi layered so called feedback/QA survey documents etc FACT
    …Its really like trying to sell double glazing to a tired home owner to take on a youngster, subsidise his training and pay him during trining time. In THE HOPE this youngster will stick it out much less remain with them long after their investment.
    Training providers with sauage machine turn out assembly line portfolios etc can do it.The paper trail that is. But when your providing say 20 apprentices with good training in 20 different locations and 20 different SME’s its FINANCIALLY IMMPOSSIBLE and still maintain the “HUNDREDS” of documents required by different bodies, ie College-Award body-own QA and audit- Accountancy etc etc