NIACE response to Richard Review of Apprenticeships

27 November 2012

Responding to the publication today of the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, David Hughes, NIACE Chief Executive, said:

“There is much to welcome in the Richard Review of Apprenticeships. In particular the unequivocal statement that ‘an apprenticeship is a form of education’ and that ‘a key beneficiary is the apprentice’ themselves. The recognition that there are three parties to an apprenticeship – government, employer and the apprentice – is significant. Despite this there is not enough emphasis in the report on the role the apprentices themselves can play in determining the curriculum, the scope, the delivery, the assessment and the improvements in quality. So, despite being investors in their own education there is not enough of a role for them in how it happens.

“We support the intention to tighten the definition of an apprenticeship, because not all training is an apprenticeship, but would stress the importance of valuing the other training and support to employees which, in some circumstances, is also valuable and deserving of public support. NIACE would support more attention to the other forms of workplace learning which are essential for people with lower level skills who need support to be able to progress in work and to maximise their talents, and perhaps also to move into apprenticeships in the future. We call on Government to consider the funding and support it can give to this as part of its commitment to social mobility.

“We are pleased to see the reassertion of the primacy of the employer/apprentice relationship above that of apprentices with the training organisation and we welcome too, the endorsement and affirmation of the role of FE colleges and the aspiration to simplify, de-clutter and end over-prescription. However, we should be cautious about exactly how that will happen.

“It is good to know that Doug Richard has recognised that an apprenticeship should equip people with skills and confidence to be able to be resilient to changes in work in the future. An apprenticeship is not simply about equipping someone for the job they are doing today; it has to be able to support them with genuinely transferable skills – skills which they will need and use in any job, and skills which enable them to be competent and confident beyond the confines of their current job, both in their sector as a whole, and beyond it.”

In its submission to the Richard Review, NIACE said:

  • Apprenticeships are for adults too – this Review takes a stage-not-age approach, but it is important to remember that these stages are relevant for adults and not just young people. We welcome the lack of age restrictions, however we are disappointed to see only one mention of apprentices of all ages which is in relation to IAG.
  • Apprentices deserve the best – a good quality experience is essential and there is much in this Review which focuses on quality of outcome. However, there is not much about the quality of the learning process (recommendation g). We need to establish what quality looks like from the perspectives of the three investing parties – government, employer and apprentice. Recommendation c talks about the need for government to set criteria about ‘what good looks like’ – this must reflect all three perspectives.
  • An apprenticeship is an education – an apprenticeship is the basis to build a whole career and not just help with the requirements of the current job. We need to ensure competition to set standards and assessment which will hopefully address this issue sufficiently.
  • Fair access to apprenticeships benefits all – We are disappointed to see that there is no mention of fair access to apprenticeships.
  • Listening works – There is no mention of learner/apprentice voice in the process, though Doug Richard talked to apprentices. We believe that apprentices of all ages and stages need to be listened to, particularly while we take forward these developments. NIACE is due to publish a report on the opinions and experiences of adult apprentices shortly.