A document detailing how the government will improve the quality of the apprenticeship programme has today been published.

The Quality Action Plan, drawn up by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), includes a number of measures to improve the content and delivery of frameworks,  focusing on IT and customer service provision in particular.

Planned actions include an updated Delivery Model Quality Statement, previously published last August, to try and make sure providers understand and incorporate minimum standards.

The document later says the government will publish new guidance on Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATA).

It states: “Innovative delivery models have increased the number of smaller employers engaged in the Apprenticeship programme, but they have the potential to mask poor practice by training providers and colleges – we will publish our expectations for ATA arrangements, (and any other collaborative and partnership models) to ensure compliance with all elements of our delivery standards.”

Apprenticeships in IT and customer service featured heavily in the Quality Action Plan recommendations.

The document says the NAS will be reviewing the IT User and Customer Service frameworks and publishing their findings to the sector, while the SFA will be carrying out a “thematic review of provision” after the Delivery Model Quality Statement is issued, starting with the IT sector.

In the Quality Action Plan the NAS also admits that the interpretation of the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) is “inconsistent” across the sector.

“We will work with the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils to review and update the guidance and documentation on developing SASE compliant frameworks,” it states.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) recently announced a new 12 month minimum duration for all apprenticeships, starting from August this year.

The policy update follows concerns about short duration programmes, some delivered in as little as 12 weeks, by private training providers.

The Quality Action Plan says they will publish a statement following their review of short apprenticeships, which will detail “lessons learned and the action we have taken”.

A NAS spokesperson told FE Week last December: “The review of short provision provided some of the content and direction for our Quality Action Plan.

“During 2012, we will work with the Skills Funding Agency, Sector Skills Councils, and other partners across the sector to implement each of the recommendations in the Quality Action Plan, including those on short duration Apprenticeships.”

The Quality Action Plan also suggests that where any apprentice is in the workplace for less than 30 hours per week, the overall duration of the apprenticeship should be extended appropriately.

The information, which expands on the definitive 30 hours stated on the NAS website, will be issued in “specific guidance” to colleges, training providers and employers.

Other measures include publishing new guidance on when colleges and training providers should be claiming a reduced amount of funding, as well as a review of minimum levels of performance.

The internal document, which includes no dates for implementation, was called for by the skills minister John Hayes following the introduction of statutory standards for apprenticeships.

(The NAS Quality Action Plan can be downloaded here.) 

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