Apprenticeships: focus needed on quality and access

31 March 2017

A recent report looking at the UK Government’s apprenticeship policies in England has highlighted some concerns.

The Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, formed from the Education and Business Select Committees finds that the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, introduced in the first week of April, and target of three million ‘starts’ by the end of the Parliament are blunt instruments that risk being unduly focused on simply raising participation levels.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute responded:

“The expansion of apprenticeships is a good thing. But the committee is right to be concerned that in the dash for 3 million we risk hitting the target but missing the point. We’re delighted the committee calls for a greater focus on access.

“Our research shows that black, asian and minority ethnic applicants are half as likely to succeed in their application and only 600 of 17,500 engineering apprentices are women. We need the same focus on access to apprenticeships as we do on widening participation in higher education. We’ve called for an Apprentice Premium, mirroring the Pupil Premium, to help do this.

“On quality, the committee is spot on that assessment organisations should be in place before apprentices start – it is inconceivable this would be allowed in other forms of education – and to report annually on outcomes for apprentices, looking to match the best  in the world. Lastly, we’re pleased to see the committee mirror our call for measures to focus apprenticeships on sectors and areas identified in the Industrial Strategy. With 40% of Levy-paying employers based in the South East, the risk otherwise is that the programme doesn’t match future skills needs.

“The expansion of apprenticeships is welcome – it can help boost prosperity and fairness. But to do so we need a laser-like focus on quality and access.”