A new ‘enquiry panel’ has been set up to manage poor quality apprenticeship providers.

The panel will report directly to Skills Minister John Hayes, who revealed the news as part of plans to increase the government’s efforts to safeguard and improve the quality and standards of apprenticeships.

The membership of the panel is yet to be announced.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hayes also today updated parliament on progress to drive up quality, as well as introducing new measures to come into place in the coming months.

They include reviewing frameworks deemed “a cause for concern” and new measures to ensure all adult apprenticeships are of a “sufficient length” to deliver the training that employers need.

He said: “The majority of apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training. They boost individuals’ life chances and build the skills that drive growth.

“We must be relentless in our drive to ensure all apprenticeships are as good as the best, to identify and root out any instances of poor quality provision, and to raise the bar on standards.

“I am determined to build on this momentum and go further so that as more people than ever have the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship, every one of them will receive the high quality training they deserve.”

Latest developments:

  • From August 2012, all apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds will be for a minimum of 12 months
  • NAS and the Skills Funding Agency’s comprehensive review of all short duration programmes has already resulted in significant improvements to many apprenticeships and the withdrawal of inadequate sub-contracted provision
  • New safeguards are being put in place to strengthen monitoring, reporting and subcontracting arrangements, including making public a list of all sub contracted provision over £100,000
  • New contracts will ensure that training providers not only act according to regulations, but also within the spirit of the apprenticeship programme
  • A new ‘enquiry panel’ has been established, reporting directly to the Minister, to manage poor quality providers as soon as they are reported.

Next steps over the coming months:

  • New measures will ensure all adult apprenticeships are of sufficient length to deliver the training employers need
  • NAS will undertake a review into apprenticeship frameworks that have been deemed a cause for concern
  • New guidance on the implementation of quality standards will be published
  • The government will take forward measures to ensure all apprentices are given the opportunity to get Level 2 English and Maths.

Simon Waugh, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, said “sound progress” is being made to ensure that apprenticeships represent “outstanding training and employment” opportunities.

He said: “Historically, growth in apprenticeships has been excellent but hasn’t always been matched by quality.

“The actions we are taking now are to clearly state expected standards, strengthen the processes of monitoring and assuring these standards and address any areas that fall short.

“Raising quality is not a quick fix but about defining a new era that firmly places apprenticeships as first rate vocational programmes offering higher level skills and qualifications in even more industries and sectors, supporting people into employment, boosting the skills of those already in work and bringing benefits to employers that invest in skills.”

Christine Gaskell MBE, member of the board for personnel at Bentley Motors, said although apprenticeships are a long-term investment, they deliver higher skills, loyalty and innovative ideas.

She said: “Good quality apprenticeship schemes are the bedrock on which our business future is built.

“If companies such as Bentley are to remain internationally competitive, we have to attract the best people and give them a training programme that allows them to flourish.”

For more, see next week’s FE Week.

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