The road to a Rolls Royce apprenticeship system

The Government is rightly proud of its record on apprenticeships. 

Since 2010, over 5.5 million apprentices have been trained and the apprenticeship landscape has altered massively.

Thousands of young people still leave school each year to learn traditional trades earning as they learn as an apprentice. But thousands more now train in artificial intelligence, become data engineers or get a foot on the ladder with major banks.

Importantly, parents’ attitudes have shifted towards high-quality apprenticeships and away from traditional degrees. Organisations like The Careers & Enterprise Company see major increases in the number of teachers promoting the value of vocational education. 

The Secretary of State for Education, herself a former apprentice, is pushing for doctors and teachers to be trained this way. Equally, I have hired two apprentices since being elected in 2019. 

The old view that to be an apprentice means being a teenager at the start of your career is shifting too. Tens of thousands of older workers are now being supported to upskill and reskill through apprenticeships. 

While it’s right we recognise this impressive record, for the apprenticeship system to be a genuine Rolls Royce operation, we need to constantly improve. 

And one of the biggest areas for reform focuses on people in the middle of their careers.

One of the government’s big themes over the past year has been getting more people to stay or get back into work. Economic inactivity is costing the country billions and impacting the public through labour shortages, lower productivity and fewer people paying tax. 

Recent research from Multiverse shows this is set to worsen, with 450,000 people thinking about dropping out of the labour market because they can’t keep up with the skills needed in the modern workplace. 

Every weapon in the government’s arsenal needs to be focused on this, and that includes apprenticeships. 

Functional skills requirements lead to perverse policies

We’re already seeing more and more businesses recognise the value in retraining long-standing workers by enrolling them as mid-career apprentices. It means someone working in a call centre learning the ropes of data analysis as AI takes over their old job, or a long-standing learning support assistant having a pathway to becoming a teacher. 

But there is one part of the apprenticeship system which is proving to be a major barrier for older workers: functional skills requirements.

To be an apprentice, you must prove you have good qualifications in both English and maths. If you can’t, the taxpayer will pay hundreds of pounds to put you on courses and enter you into exams to prove it. 

This sounds well-intentioned, but in reality it is leading to some perverse policies being enacted. Tens of thousands of older workers, working with their employers to retrain into new jobs using apprenticeships, are being forced onto expensive courses when they clearly don’t need to be there. 

For thousands, it’s because they simply cannot find their old O Level or A Level certificates. I’ve seen evidence of millions of pounds wasted each year on people being put on these functional skills courses when they already have a degree. 

Retaking basic English and maths qualifications when you already have an undergraduate degree defies all common sense. As I advocate for in the New Conservatives’ Plan to Upskill Britain, removing these requirements will boost the number of apprentices. 

Government spent £379 million on functional skills courses in the past five years. This is an area ripe for reform, not just because of its cost but because it is causing more apprentices to drop out, or worse, never apply in the first place. 

For people who have been good employees for decades, being told to go back to the classroom and the exam hall just doesn’t make sense. 

Making degree certificates evidence of passing your functional skills would save millions of pounds each year and stop thousands from being turned off from a life-changing apprenticeship.

Gillian Keegan and the Prime Minister are proud champions of apprenticeships and want to see the system go from strength to strength. Sensible reforms like this are key to delivering that ambition.

Four things to know from Ofsted’s careers review in specialist colleges

Specialist colleges are providing varying quality of careers guidance to SEND learners amid a lack of support from local authorities and gaps in communication with parents and employers, Ofsted has found.

The findings, published today, come from a 2022 mandate from the Department for Education for Ofsted to review careers provision in specialist settings.

Inspectors visited four specialist colleges, three pupil referral units and five special schools during the 2023 summer term.

They found mixed results in the careers guidance strategies in SEND colleges, integration of careers education into the curriculum and the support received from local authorities.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver said: “Good careers guidance can help address social inequality by teaching children and young people with SEND about the full range of options available and how they can make the most of them. These children deserve the kind of high-quality advice that opens the doors to ambitious and interesting experiences that help them choose their next steps. 

“It’s great to hear that many specialist settings are working with children and their families to make sure these transitions are as aspirational and positive as possible.”

Here are four key take aways from Ofsted’s review:

Local authorities ‘distressing’ families with incorrect transition paperwork

Ofsted criticised local authorities for not always giving families and education providers enough support for learners transitioning into further education, training or employment; something that is part of their statutory guidance.

The watchdog said there was a “great deal” of regional variation in how well local authorities carried out their duties.

“There were some cases where the local authority did not confirm school/college places within agreed timescales, or sent out incorrect paperwork related to transitions,” the report said.

“This was distressing for families and children and young people, and providers’ staff had to invest significant time and resource in resolving these problems.”

Local authority officers that Ofsted interviewed cited “system-wide issues”.

“They said it can be particularly challenging to find specialist provision, especially after the learner has turned 19. They also expressed concerns about the numbers of level 1 and 2 college courses being reduced and said there were not always sufficient suitable places in providers to meet learners’ needs,” Ofsted said.

Concerns of BTEC options for SEND learners

Ofsted found that all providers felt there had been a reduction in the number of options for learners with SEND. Providers were concerned about the potential drop in the number of BTECs amid the government’s level 3 and below review and a move towards apprenticeships or T levels.

One learner told Ofsted: “I like [the] BTEC but [they’re] getting rid of it.”

The review also found barriers for some learners as some courses required formal qualifications in maths and English.

“Providers felt that these courses were too academic for some young people,” the report said. 

“Employers in our focus groups also saw this as a barrier, particularly for young people who want to do apprenticeships. It may be more appropriate for some learners to continue to study for maths and English while undertaking further study, and this is often what happens,” it added.

‘Varied’ integration of careers into the curriculum

Through interviews with local authority officers and focus groups with stakeholders, Ofsted found the effectiveness of careers guidance in the curriculum was varied across providers.

“In the best providers, it prepared learners for next steps. In others, it was less effective,” they said.

The review cited one SEND college which did not provide any dedicated lessons on work readiness until the final term of the year before learners were due to progress. 

“This was because of a lack of planning and strategic thinking about careers guidance from leaders, who also were not prioritising helping learners to understand the importance of next steps, including getting a job,” inspectors explained.

Meanwhile, one specialist college featured life skills in “every aspect” of the curriculum that would prepare them for work.

Inspectors praised the providers’ provision of work-related training to all learners, whether on academic, vocational or mixed pathways.

The report said: “The college developed links with local businesses, for example a hair salon, to provide external work placements. It also created in-house working environments, for example a café/restaurant, where learners could get experience of the workplace. Learners studied English and mathematics in the classroom and while doing work-based training.”

They added that planning for careers guidance was ad hoc and unstructured in two SEND colleges they visited.

“They did not monitor or measure the impact of their guidance,” inspectors critiqued. 

“In one of these providers, learners had very little knowledge of possible next steps, such as apprenticeships, supported internships or higher education. Additionally, parents did not receive any formal communication about what their child or young person had been doing outside of EHC plan review meetings.”

Employers lacked support from providers

The review said that some employers did not have the knowledge or confidence to give learners with SEND high-quality work experience. 

“Some felt that they did not get enough support from providers, to enable them to deliver high-quality experiences,” it said.

Providers used a mix of internal and external work placements, depending on the individual needs of the learner and availability of external placements. 

In a few SEND colleges, inspectors found that work experience placements led to paid employment, which was also confirmed in Ofsted’s inspection evidence review. 

“However, not all providers in our sample were ensuring there were enough opportunities for learners to experience the workplace,” it added.

‘Politically driven’ post-16 policy churn has damaged stability, think tank warns

Governments must end the “high level” of policy churn across all four UK nations that has caused instabilities and overly complex training routes, a think tank has said.

A report, published today, has exposed stark inequalities in post-16 education outcomes for students across the UK and has put part of the blame to “political and ideologically driven” policy changes.

Researchers examined each UK jurisdiction’s efforts over the last two decades to overhaul its post-16 education and training system, which sought to engage with economic challenges, changing skills needs, and social necessities.

The research, conducted by Education Policy Institute (EPI) and the Oxford University Centre for skills, knowledge and organisational performance (SKOPE), found 30 legal changes have been imposed since devolution in 1999 – comprising six education acts, nine reviews, four White Papers, three green papers, and eight government strategy papers.

The report said that such policy churn, which was rolled out for as “change for its own sake”, as well as budgetary pressures and “low-cost” education policies has resulted in instability, complex pathways, complicated regulatory mechanisms, and confusing understandings of post-16 education in the four nations.

“The system is at best flawed and at worst failing.”

This has led to poor outcomes in the four nations, notably in England and Wales.

Fewer apprenticeships are taken by young people in England and Wales (20 per cent) than in Scotland and Northern Ireland (37 per cent and 52 per cent), the report found.

Additionally, Wales was found to have the highest share of 16 to 18-year-olds classed as Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEET). Nearly 11 per cent of young people in Wales were classified as NEET in 2022-23, compared with 8 per cent in England, 9 per cent in Scotland and 5 per cent in Northern Ireland.

“No easy solution has been found to match the skills demand and the skills offer,” the report said.

The report slammed the “constant state of flux” of post-16 education policy in the UK from governing parties, mostly caused by “short attention spans”, and said it was exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

“The level of policy churn experienced within UK education and training (E&T) is enormous and potentially damaging for all the individuals and institutions involved. Constant policy churn emphasises the view that the E&T system is at best flawed and at worst failing,” the report said.

The relationship between further and higher education and bringing FE to the same level of prestige has been marred by the policy churn, researchers argue.

“It is arguable that the levels of policy churn experienced over the last three decades have had a detrimental impact on that process,” they said.

The “frequent tinkering” has also hindered the offering of vocational qualifications and has also caused a lack of comparable data between the four nations.

“Data can sometimes be organised around the latest focus of policy, which, as we know, can frequently change,” it said.

“We weren’t able to look at socio-economic differences in 16 to 18 participation at all across the four nations. Comparisons were slightly better for apprenticeships, but these could also be improved too.

“In principle, the four nations could be used for policy learning across the UK. In reality, a lack of comparable data severely limits these opportunities.”

The report called for a “new vision and policy approach for post-16 E&T”, which will require “political consensus within each nation on goals and ambitions that can be realised, well-funded institutions and structures, and a stable set of qualifications”.

And following that, a period of “policy stability should be overtly enshrined in both the governments’ and opposition parties’ post-16 E&T priorities to allow the sector to recover”.

The report admitted this plan “may sound fanciful” within the UK’s adversarial political system, but the main political parties are “not actually that far apart on their aims and policies for post-16 education and training”.

Luke Sibieta, research fellow at the EPI, said: “Our report exposes worrying inequalities in outcomes for students, as well as significant variation in the approaches taken to the provision of post-16 education and training across the four UK nations.”

James Robson, director of SKOPE, added: “This interim report highlights the important ways in which education and training policy approaches are converging and diverging across the four nations and how these shifting policy logics shape learner experiences and outcomes. It shows excessive levels of policy churn across all the UK nations which has had a damaging impact on the stability of the education and training sector.

“Our analysis highlights a need for more cross-party policy work that unpacks the challenges of different approaches to coordinating education and training, both market and systems-based thinking, and deals proactively with growing inequalities in the UK.”

A full report will follow this interim report later this year.

David Hughes, chief executive of Association of Colleges, said: “The report confirms that the very high level of policy churn has been detrimental to post-16 education and training despite the broad consensus across the political parties of the need for a more coherent, effective post-16 system.

“We have seen some of this just last week in England, with another change in policy around English and maths funding rules, which is unfair to learners, unfeasible for colleges and implemented without discussion.

“Whilst stability might be too much to ask for after the general election, we would be hoping for strong engagement between politicians, policy makers and the college staff who will have to implement any changes being proposed.”

The Department for Education declined to comment.

Hull College exits intervention after 7 years

Hull College has officially exited formal government intervention after more than seven years under the spotlight.

The FE Commissioner closed the college’s financial notice to improve yesterday. It was first issued in November 2016. 

The college has now moved into post-intervention monitoring and support (PIMS), a period of around six months where the FE commissioner’s team supports colleges through the remaining “low-risk” items in their improvement action plan. 

Debra Gray

Hull College principal and CEO Debra Gray said: “We are delighted to move out of intervention and into PIMS. Every staff member at the college has worked incredibly hard over an extended period to help transform the college back into a highly respected anchor institution in the city.”

Gray joined the college in April 2022, just after the college received its second consecutive ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted judgment. 

The college was reinspected in October 2023 and scored a ‘good’ overall judgment, with ‘outstanding’ grades for its adult learning programmes and personal development.

Hull College was placed in intervention in November 2016. A report at the time by then-FE Commissioner Richard Atkins pointed to spiralling deficits, ‘inadequate’ rated financial health, high staff costs and a request for emergency ‘exceptional financial support’. 

It later emerged a government Fresh Start bailout in the region of £50 million was paid to the college to stabilise its finances. 

The college reduced its staff headcount, transferred one of its colleges to another group and shut a campus to help balance its books.

The notice to improve was updated four times before being closed this week. The latest update for May 2023 said the college needed to sustain its ‘good’ financial health rating achieved in 2020/21 and continue to reduce its use of sub-contracting. The college was also told to “continue to develop its curriculum plan and quality improvement plan to meet the varied needs of its learners and stakeholders, whilst working towards Ofsted ‘good’,” which has now been achieved.

Financial statements for 2021/22 however state the college scored a ‘requires improvement’ financial rating for that year alongside a £2.3 million deficit. Its 2022/23 accounts have not yet been published. 

Staff costs have reduced from 78 per cent of income in 2015/16 to 70 per cent in 2021/22. 

But it wasn’t just finances the colleges were wrestling with.

Allegations of nepotism and “financial wrong-doing” levelled against the college’s then-chief executive Michelle Swithenbank were investigated in 2019. An investigation found “no impropriety” but Swithenbank left the college that year, succeeded by a succession of seven short-term interims until Gray’s arrival in April 2022.

One of those interim leaders, Lowell Williams, launched another investigation into a £240,000 sponsorship deal to name a local rugby club stadium. The deal, signed by Swithenbank, was found to have breached the college’s financial regulations because it wasn’t also signed off by the college’s board.

Gray said the college is now “firmly back at the leading edge of technical and vocational education in the Humber, and we couldn’t be prouder of our staff and students.”

There are currently 13 colleges in formal government intervention, with six entering intervention in 2023, according to FE commissioner Shelagh Legrave’s last annual report.

Sustaining Support for 16-19 Tuition Funding

As we look to the future of education, the prime minister’s commitment to extending the study of English and maths until the age of 18 holds great promise.

However, within the further education sector this pledge presents us with a unique challenge not found in secondary schools. Around 90 per cent of students coming into FE colleges do not have a grade 4 at GCSE English and/or maths and are therefore already at a disadvantage to their peers who have achieved this.

This picture we are seeing across the UK’s colleges is startling and this is compounded when you think that the FE sector is responsible for delivering education to learners from some of the most deprived and disadvantaged areas in the UK. In fact, it’s estimated that 45 per cent of learners in FE colleges are from the two most disadvantaged quintiles.

Which is why the prime minister’s promise at the time of the announcement of “extra help for those who struggle the most” to ensure no young person is “left behind” has even more importance.

To address these disparities and empower young minds, it is imperative to provide robust support beyond what they received in school. The need for extra assistance becomes even more pronounced when we consider the concerning drop in funding for disadvantaged young people at the age of 16, with 16- to 19-year-olds ineligible for pupil premium support.

We welcomed the government’s introduction of ringfenced catch-up funding, which we’ve used effectively to implement small-group tuition for 16- to 19-year-olds in 2020, a crucial step in responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Small-group tuition has proven to be one of the most effective interventions, with just 12 hours of tutoring shown to drive three months of additional progress. For Activate Learning, this marked the first time we could deliver such interventions at scale, showcasing tangible benefits for our students.

Discontinuing the 16-19 Tuition Fund is not a viable solution

At Activate Learning, we have witnessed the positive impact of this funding firsthand. We have utilised the resources to introduce new roles, such as Intensive Progress Coaches, who facilitate personal development sessions to support learning progress, individual engagement and wellbeing. The ability to provide targeted personalised help, ensuring students receive the support they need, has meant that we have been able to minimise the impact of the pandemic for those who have engaged in the process.

But as the 16-19 Tuition Fund faces a potential end in August 2024, it is crucial that we recognise the ongoing effects the pandemic is still having on the education of our young people.

We know that the disruption to younger people’s education has been profound, with a lack of classroom-based learning impacting on fundamental skills such as maths and English, as wells as their social skills.

The result is that colleges are having to grapple with unprecedented numbers of students needing to retake English and maths, and the skills gaps among incoming students are more pronounced.

This is also exacerbated by the increased number of learners who are struggling with their mental health post-pandemic and need increasing pastoral care to maintain their education.

For those of us in education, it’s clear that the repercussions of the pandemic will be felt for years, particularly among the youngest pupils.

While the pandemic’s challenges persist, discontinuing the 16-19 Tuition Fund is not a viable solution. The funding has been instrumental in providing crucial support, enabling colleges like ours to address the unique needs of students who have faced disruptions.

Beyond mere education recovery, this additional funding has the potential to play a pivotal role in closing the attainment gap we know exists. It should be embedded into our education system on a sustained basis, aligning with the government’s levelling up agenda and enabling further education colleges like ours to undertake enduring strategic investments that we know have a positive impact on student outcomes.

Now is not the time to withdraw this essential support. Ending the funding risks dismantling valuable infrastructure built to help those who struggle the most in education.

Sustained catch-up funding can further amplify the positive strides made in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. At Activate Learning, we earnestly hope the prime minister will honour his commitment to providing extra support for those who need it most, and truly ensure no young person is left behind in their pursuit of education.

New English and maths funding conditions are unnecessary, unworkable and must be suspended

With funding for 16 to 18 education lower now in real terms than it was in 2010 you’d imagine that any new investment would be welcomed by college leaders with open arms. Well think again, because the government has found a way of making new money feel like a wholly backward step by imposing unnecessary, unhelpful and unworkable conditions for a modest amount of extra funding. And worst of all, conditions that will have a wholly negative impact on students’ chances of success.

Back in October, the prime minister launched his vision for a new 16 to 18 phase of education with more hours, more breadth and more support for those who the system has failed by age 16. In a very welcome but unusual step, he pledged more funding for the 40 per cent of young people who do not achieve a grade 4 in English and/or maths at age 16 and who are required to resit as part of their study programme. Nearly all of the re-sitters are in colleges, around 200,000 each year. 

Extra funding to support their learning has to be a good thing, and nobody argues that carrying on learning to become proficient in English and maths is not a good thing, too. So what, then, is the problem? 

Put simply, some busy officials somewhere in the Whitehall machine have devised a set of new rules which go alongside the modest funding of £375 per learner. They’ve done this with no engagement with colleges and they’ve got it wrong. 

We are asking ministers to suspend these new conditions immediately and work with us to find a better way forward. 

Here’s how they’ve got it wrong: it will damage the life chances of the students it is meant to help, it is unworkable because of the low pay in colleges making recruitment of new maths and English teachers almost impossible, and it flies in the face of the work DfE is doing to simplify the system. Perhaps most worryingly, it shows how little trust there is from DfE in colleges. 

Explaining how this will damage life chances needs a bit of detailed explanation. In England, 16- to 18-year-old students in schools and colleges are funded for about 16 hours per week of teaching, pastoral support and enrichment, for 36 weeks (580 hours per year). The Prime Minister has now conceded that is not enough, with OECD countries commonly funding 25 to 30 hours per week, so the plan is to increase this over the next 10 years.

For T Level students the government is already funding more hours- up to 25 per week in some subjects. For those young people who need to resit both English and maths, though, they are expected to do it within the 16 hours per week and up until next year, with no extra funding either. The new funding announced for next year is £375 per student, but it now comes with the condition that 4 hours are spent on maths and 3 hours spent on English. That only leaves 9 hours per week for the main subject. It’s simply not fair and won’t work. 

It’s a very good example of how we let down those who need the most support. Nine hours per week for those struggling with English and maths whilst those who passed at age 16 get 25 hours for some T Levels. It demoralises young people who are often highly motivated to learn skills they can take into the workplace. It slows down their learning and progress just at the point where many recognise how learning can help them in life and in work. It’s an outrageous situation that needs to change and DfE needs to work with us to find a better way forwards.

The wider issues also need addressing, because it is already impossible for schools and colleges to find the teachers and lecturers they need. But with college lecturer pay on average £9,000 per annum behind school teacher pay, finding maths teachers for resit students is nigh on impossible. Nationally our estimate is that colleges will need to recruit an extra 800 maths and 400 English teachers just at the time when most colleges are reporting vacancies already. We need a government-funded plan on how that pay gap will be closed, and soon.

This sad state of affairs reflects a lack of trust in colleges and a low level of understanding of the challenges their students face. Whilst DfE’s current efforts to simplify the burdensome, unwieldy and unnecessary bureaucracy seem genuine, it’s clear that the cultural mindset is to micro-manage, mistrust and tie colleges up in knots. That too has to change, and soon.

Apprenticeship starts dip 12% after functional skills rate announcement

Apprenticeship starts for November 2023 – the month after officials announced new functional skills funding rates would be fast-tracked – dipped 12 per cent on the previous year.

Figures published this morning by the Department for Education show there were 25,100 starts in November 2023 compared to 28,800 in November 2022.

There were 30,160 starts in November 2021 and even 26,630 in 2020 – the year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The slump in starts for November 2023 is likely to have been caused by the DfE’s announcement on October 31 that new funding rates for English and maths functional skills courses would be brought forward to begin from January 2024.

Officials had originally planned to introduce the new rates from the start of the 2024/25 academic year but decided to implement them sooner following lobbying from the sector.

Since January, all apprentices who have not gained their level 2 English and maths qualification have had their funding lifted to match the adult education budget – moving the rate up by 54 per cent from £471 to £724.

Critically, however, the new rates only apply to new apprenticeship starters and not those already on programme.

While overall starts for November 2023 fell 12 per cent on the previous year, the decline was felt the most among young apprentices and the lower levels.

Starts for those aged 16 to 18 dipped by 20 per cent from 7,600 to 6,090 over that period, while starts for 19 to 24s fell 16 per cent from 8,490 to 7,110 and starts for adults aged 25 and over declined by 6 per cent from 12,710 to 11,900.

Level 2 starts fell 21 per cent from 7,510 to 5,940 and level 3 starts dropped 19 per cent from 14,190 to 11,440. Starts on higher level apprenticeships actually rose 9 per cent from 7,100 to 7,720. 

November’s drop has shrunk the positive increase in apprenticeship starts in the 2023/24 academic year.

Figures published last month showed a 7 per cent increase overall in the first quarter of the year, which covers the months August, September and October.

Starts are now only 2 per cent up for the period August to November 2023.

Curriculum planning to meet skills needs

Densely populated counties in England with high-demand for software developers

Counties all across the country recognise that digital skills demand continues to evolve and grow with acute demand in areas such as coding, programming, and software engineering. Additionally, EM3 + rest of Surrey LSIP mentions the need for improving diversity and inclusion including getting more females and neurodiverse people into IT. 

Westminster Adult Education Service partners with Code Institute to meet skills needs

The GLA [Greater London Authority] funding targets disadvantaged groups that are marginalised in the digital sector. Shortly after the GLA released some bootcamp funding for software developers, Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES) in conjunction with Code Institute, created a Full-Stack Bootcamp that uses the Code Institute curriculum and LMS but is taught face-to-face over 16 weeks.

WAES launched their first Full-Stack Bootcamp in January 2023. “We want to attract local or at least regional students from black and ethnic minorities, females, single parents, carers, anyone with a disability, the under-24s and over-50s – so quite a wide range. All our Bootcamp learners have at least one, and mostly two of those characteristics,” adds Alison Muggridge, Assistant Principal Curriculum and Quality at WAES.

The first 11-strong cohort graduated in April 2022. Seven of them are now working full time in the digital industry. Alison’s colleague Waqas Ahmed, Head of English, Maths, Digital, and Inclusion shared that “the second Bootcamp cohort started at the beginning of October with 23 students. It was heavily over-subscribed.” Furthermore, 90% of Bootcamp learners are among the lowest earners, he added.

Find out more through interviews with the WAES team, a bootcamp learner and the employer community feedback – watch the video case study below.

How to leverage Skills Bootcamps in your curriculum planning 

Our ambition is to enable colleges that would like to take part in the Government’s new pilot initiative with a clear delivery pathway. To that end, we are hosting Alison Muggridge, Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Quality at Westminster Adult Education Service and Pasquale Fasulo, Director of Further and Higher Education at the City of Bristol College, for a fireside chat to share best practices about how they have embedded high-quality Full-Stack Software Developer Skills Bootcamp delivery using very different delivery models.

We’ll cover key issues and challenges across both models, including:

–   Skills Bootcamps background

–  Motivations for offering Skills Bootcamps

–  Challenges faced and overcome (including payment models and staffing)

–  Advice to providers considering Skills Bootcamps delivery

–  Success stories & Employment outcomes

–  Q&A

The online webinar will take place on February 28th, from 1pm to 2pm. 

Secure your spot now

National Apprenticeship Week 2024

The case for change is undeniable. It’s decision time

Shane Chowen, FE Week editor

Welcome to FE Week’s special supplement marking this year’s National Apprenticeship Week. With the support of NCFE, we’ve brought together the highlights of this year’s key news, announcements, and highlights. 

In the following pages, you’ll also find exclusive and sometimes provocative opinions from sector leaders and insiders. 

Getting people to write for a publication like this is the easy bit; everyone wants to make the apprenticeship system work. As you’ll see for yourself, the sector isn’t short on ideas either. 

What sets 2024 apart from previous years though is the sense of urgency behind calls for change. There will almost certainly be a general election this year and the sector is hungry for detail from politicians on what’s to come. 

Since last year’s National Apprenticeship Week supplement, there’s been some good progress. Funding for functional skills qualifications was increased last month following a concerted lobbying effort from training organisations and, as Billy Camden reports on page 12, there are signs small businesses are making use of the removal of the cap on apprenticeship starts. 

Apprentices Susan Loughlin and Adam Henderson have their say on pages 14 and 15. Loughlin’s inspirational story reminds us of the harsh realities faced by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and makes a powerful argument for a living wage to widen access to apprenticeships. 

Organisations like the Association of Apprenticeships, the Chartered Institution for Further Education and the Union of Jewish Students are also doing their bit to improve the status and experience of doing an apprenticeship on pages 16-17. Debates about funding and tweaks to the levy are of course important, but we shouldn’t forget that with low completion rates in much of the sector, apprentices themselves have to see the value. 

New AELP chief executive Ben Rowland shares what he has learned from touring the country on his CEO roadshow, paying tribute to the “unsung heroes” that make up the apprenticeship eco-system on page 10. And Ofsted’s FE chief Paul Joyce shares what his inspectors find are the common elements to the very best training on page 24. 

While there are debates about detail, what is uniting the apprenticeships sector is that the current system isn’t doing enough for young people or small businesses. The longer we go on as we are, the deeper inequalities in the system will be entrenched. The status quo isn’t acceptable to anyone. Now is the time for choices.