New quality and access to apprenticeship fund proposed by Niace

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) has called for a new fund to help improve the quality and access to apprenticeships.

The proposal was part of its submission, lodged with partner organisation the Centre for Social Inclusion (Inclusion), to a consultation which closed on Friday (September 4) on the government’s 2015 spending review.

A Niace spokesperson said that the new fund should be “ring-fenced from funding raised through the [proposed] apprenticeship levy” for large employers.

It would be invested in “widening access to apprenticeships from underrepresented groups and fund employer-led quality initiatives to enhance outcomes for apprentices and businesses”, the spokesperson added.

The submission also proposed a single funding agency for all post-19 loans, merging the Skills Funding Agency and Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The spokesperson said that this would “maximise the investment that goes to the frontline and improve parity of esteem between academic and vocational routes”.

Niace and Inclusion also called, in the submission, for personal career accounts, which individuals could access throughout their careers as they need to develop skills or retrain.

The submission also requested a “new radical vision” for community learning.

It would, the spokesperson said, maximise “ability to support the breadth of government policy, including employment and skills, mental and public health, stronger families, digital engagement, social mobility, inclusive communities, healthy ageing and strengthening civil society”.

It also called for a “radical refocusing” of employment support for disabled people to “help halve the disability employment gap”.

David Hughes, chief executive at Niace, said that the government should use this spending review to “make an important commitment to prioritise investment in learning, skills and employment”.

“This is critical to nurturing our economy, helping to strengthen productivity and ensuring that economic growth is inclusive,” he added.

“If the government wants to fulfil its own ambitions and aspirations for a more productive Britain, halving the disability unemployment gap and creating 3m apprenticeships, then it must ensure that adults of all ages have opportunities to learn and to get on in work and in life.”

He said that “far too many people” were currently missing out on training opportunities, which “not only threatens their own life chances, but damages the prospects for increased workforce productivity, and for sustained economic growth”.

Niace, based in Leicester, and Inclusion, based in London, announced that they were forming an “alliance” in February and said at the time that future merger could not be ruled out.

And that merger was announced in July, which a spokesperson said at the time would create an “even stronger voice promoting citizenship, inclusive economic growth and a stronger and fairer society”.

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