Skills minister will ‘look at whether it is right to continue to fund all apprenticeships’

The skills minister has said she will “look at whether it is right” for the government to “continue to fund all apprenticeships”.

Anne Milton made the remarks as part of a wide-ranging video interview with Association of Colleges’ boss David Hughes this afternoon, after she was unable to stay for questions at the association’s annual conference last month.

“We will need to look ahead, when the system is really running well – and I think we’re nearly at that stage – when we need to look at do we continue to fund apprenticeships for people who are already in work, people doing second degrees,” she said.

We now need to look at whether it is right to continue to fund all apprenticeships

“We now need to look at whether it is right to continue to fund all apprenticeships, particularly at the sort of levels that we’re talking about,” she said.

Ms Milton’s comments come just a day after FE Week exclusively revealed that the apprenticeships budget could be overspent by £0.5 billion this year alone – in large part because of the surge in people doing expensive management apprenticeships.

And Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman raised concerns about levy funds being spent on higher level apprenticeships at the expense of young people on lower levels, during today’s annual report launch.

“Levy funding is, in many cases, falling far short of the intended spirit of the policy. In some cases we’re seeing levy funding subsidising repackaged graduate schemes and MBAs that just don’t need it,” she said.

Ms Milton was responding to a question from Mr Hughes specifically about the points raised by Ms Spielman on “degree apprenticeships, apprenticeship for people who are already in work, people who are in decent jobs, doing an MBA”.

She acknowledged that such courses “cost a lot of money”.

We are now starting to look at the future of the apprenticeship levy

“We are now starting to look at the future of the apprenticeship levy. I think business might see that as a signal that we’re going to change it, and I think that’s extremely unlikely,” she said.

“I think in the first stages it was not unreasonable to have a very open system, taking money off business, as long as it’s an apprenticeship, 20 per cent off the job, lasts for more than a year, ticks all our boxes, you can do it,” she said.

The apprenticeships system “should be about that second, third, fourth chance” and “it’s also got to be about progression” – particularly in sectors where “people do a level two and stop there”.

“We want to increase their aspiration, that they could do a level three and critically a level four where we have traditionally been weak on in this country

“We’re looking at it all at the moment. I don’t want to set any hares running,” Ms Milton said.

Photo caption: Skills minister Anne Milton being interviewed by AoC chief executive David Hughes. The exchange above starts at 10 minutes into the video.

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  1. Weren’t apprenticeships really about giving businesses the opportunity to pay below the minimum wage?

    Education should be above short term politics (all parties) – In league topping countries educators are respected, here they are derided.

  2. Just Saying

    A senior manager already employed in a large multi-national company is apparently a high priority for the government. The management degree apprenticeship being undertaken is banded up to £27k in terms of apprenticeship funding from the government.
    The senior care person employed in a nursing care home, must develop their knowledge, skills and competency as part of a Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in order to provide a vitally important service to us all. The governments own words are that the service provided should be: “safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led”. You would think that this would be a high priority for the government to support. A higher priority than supporting someone working for an organisation such as Google doing an MBA? Without a doubt you would think. Wrong! The current banded value is £2k. Unfortunately, I haven’t missed a digit off this!
    Can the Minister please explain how her civil servants googled a response that could justify this situation to her? And please don’t say that this is the Framework rate and that the new Standard when approved will be worth £6k. Unfortunately, I haven’t missed a digit off this either!
    Minister, this situation just isn’t right! Please however, don’t stop funding the desperately needed care manager apprenticeship as a casualty of fixing the clear mistake of funding Degree Apprenticeships at this or possibly any level. In such circumstances, two wrongs would never make you right!