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Policy Exchange: forget targets, focus on apprenticeship quality

Policy Exchange: forget targets, focus on apprenticeship quality

Another major report has been published focusing on the quality and delivery of apprenticeships in the UK. Today, the Policy Exchange has issued its latest white paper, “The Skills We Need, And Why We Don’t Have Them: How Apprenticeships should be reformed to make the UK compete on the global stage” and concluded that the standard of apprenticeships is still falling short, and that without significant change the government risks wasting up to half a billion pounds on sub-standard training.

 “Apprenticeships – at their best – are world class,” the report states. “However, despite the move away from the old system of frameworks to the new Apprenticeship standards, the concern is that many of these new Apprenticeship programmes fall short of this ideal.”

The policy Exchange also concludes that “Too many of the new Apprenticeship standards which have been designed, approved, funded and are being undertaken do not stand comparison to the best ones in the UK, or reflect an Apprenticeship by international definitions.”

The report also suggests that government “Recognise that the target of 3m Apprenticeship starts, although a manifesto commitment, is unhelpful as being the primary focus of the programme.”


Too many starts, not enough quality

In essence, the report finds too many schemes that enjoy the apprenticeship label are not up to standard. It also states that there are some generic apprenticeships in areas like management lack sufficient focus.

“However, as non sector specific Apprenticeships are a new introduction and not aligned with the traditional definition of an Apprenticeship it is important that the appropriate controls are in place to ensure that these programmes are more than just professional training, and that they include the right level of new responsibilities to ensure the Apprentice grows in a new job or role.

The current flawed system, the authors argue, could lead to up to “five hundred million pounds of public money  be[ing] spent every year from 2020 supporting young people and adults to undertake new Apprenticeship standards which are not aligned with the traditional definition of an Apprenticeship.”


‘Focus on quality and delivery’

So what should change? One of the key recommendations – and not the first time an expert panel have reached this conclusion – focuses on moving away from the quantity of apprenticeships started – targeted at 3m by 2020 by the government – and towards a more quality-based approach.

It also suggests setting a new primary goal for the programme of “Ensuring that all new apprenticeships are of high quality, even at the expense of volume,” as well as “Introduce a more robust and demanding definition of Apprenticeships that must be adhered to in order to receive public money.”

Indeed, the report puts quality front and centre of its suggested actions. All apprenticeships must be linked to a skilled occupation as defined by the National Occupational, professional body standards, or international equivalents,” it says, adding that “All Apprenticeships must have a curriculum and training plan before they can be approved.”

It also suggested that the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education should become the voice of technical education for all post 16 learning.


‘Focus on numbers undermining credibility’

Jonathan Simons, co-author of the report, said: “A pure focus on numbers risks undermining the credibility of the Apprenticeships programme in the eyes of employers and young people. A skills system in a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few, has the potential to do so much better.”

Tom Richmond, co-author of the report, added: “Some of the apprenticeships designed by Trailblazers are excellent and promote the kind of training that embodies apprenticeships in this country and abroad.

But there are a number of weaknesses in the Apprenticeship reforms and the wider strategy that threaten to undermine the principles at the heart of it. In particular, the desire for speed has reduced the time available to put sufficient quality filters and a rigorous definition of what an Apprenticeship is.”

Melanie Richards, Vice Chairman at KPMG, which co-sponsored and collaborated on the research, said: “This critical piece of research shines a light on the current state of apprenticeships in the UK. It’s clear the absence of a strong technical education route, combining on and off-the-job training, has contributed to poor social mobility across the country and hindered much of the adult population’s opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

Apprenticeships have an important role to play to help us upskill and kick start UK productivity. Our own high quality apprenticeship programme, KPMG360°, has helped us attract talented people who otherwise wouldn’t have joined our firm, deterred by the traditional graduate entry route.”


The report can be found here.



Courtesy of Apprentice Eye (www.apprenticeeye.co.uk

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