Uncertainty over deadline for switch from old apprenticeship frameworks to Trailblazer standards

Uncertainty around the deadline of the apprenticeship frameworks is growing after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) refused to confirm they would cease come 2017/18.

Adam Harper, BIS head of apprenticeship legislation, was non-committal when questioned about the deadline for the end of apprenticeship frameworks and move to Trailblazer standards, at London’s Capita apprenticeships and traineeships conference, on September 23.

With providers keen to find out if BIS was sticking to its planned cut-off for frameworks, FE Week asked BIS if it was now planning to allow them to continue beyond August 2017.

However, a BIS spokesperson declined to comment on the issue directly, saying instead that “there will be one new standard for each occupation identified byemployers as requiring an apprenticeship, and the standards will replace existing apprenticeship frameworks.”

He would not be drawn on a timescale for when this process should be completed by.

The government had confirmed the date for when it wanted old frameworks to be scrapped in an implementation plan for apprenticeship reform back in October 2013.

It stated: “The Trailblazers will provide clear examples of effective practice and approaches which others can build on as we move towards full implementation of the reforms during 2015/16 and 2016/17.

“Our aim is that from 2017/18, all new apprenticeship starts will be based on the new standards.”

But the government was forced to defend progress with implementation of Trailblazer apprenticeships in June, after FE Week reported that official figures indicated there had been just 300 starts on the new programmes in nine months.

Another FE Week report on August 6 revealed that frustration was growing among Trailblazer apprenticeship designers, with many of the new standards still awaiting government approval for delivery almost a year after they were published.

Just 24 standards had been published by BIS at that time as ready for delivery, and that figure still only stood at 54 as of September 24.

Yet the government said in August that more than 350 standards had either been delivered or were being developed.

It led to claims in FE Week on September 4 that Skills Minister Nick Boles had broken a promise made to the House of Commons Education Select Committee in January that there would be “many fewer” new apprenticeship Trailblazer standards than the frameworks, of which there were 334 at the time, they will replace.

The story saw FE Week editor Chris Henwood, in edition 145 of the newspaper, on September 7, raise the prospect of the frameworks deadline being put back.

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