The reformed Apprenticeship programme is now finally off the ground. With some 279 new Apprenticeship standards approved for delivery, and 38% of starts this year on new standards the position is much improved from this time last year. However the overall numbers remain significantly lower – 28% down.
So what is occurring in the market for Apprenticeships? The training providers are moving to serve the levy paying employers who have the clout both in terms of purchasing power and cohort size, it appears that the SME (non-levy paying) employers are being marginalised, either unable or unwilling to invest the 10% required or not seen as attractive customers for the training providers? Currently there is no indication though that the government will u-turn on co-investment.
Whilst there are some signs that the levy is now starting to bed in, still many employers have not come forward to take up these new apprenticeships and we hear that some are treating it as tax which they are writing off. There are a range of objections: there aren’t appropriate standards in place; others aren’t convinced by the quality of the training on offer; concerns about 20% off –the – job training and some quite simply feel that Apprenticeships aren’t the right route for their business.
It is almost 6 years on from the original Richard Review of Apprenticeships so the pace can’t be described as ‘fast’ but I think it’s fair to say that it has been steady….
What still remains to be done? There are issues about the capacity and capability of the new End Point Assessment Organisations, there are still some standards that don’t have a single organisation identified on the register of EPAOs. This is a new market and a new product and it will take time but is it really fair on the apprentices to start on a programme of study where they aren’t clear how and by whom they will be assessed at the end?
Another new element is External Quality Assurance provided by a range of organisations who quality will assure the planning and delivery of assessment and report back to the IfA. Meanwhile Ofsted continues to inspect the training and has been granted additional funds to do so, but added into the mix there is a rapid expansion of degree apprenticeships and entry into the market of HEIs with their own inspectorates and arrangements so quality remains a fairly complex picture.
Is it time to panic? A reformed programme takes time to really take hold, and the landscape will settle as more apprentices enter and complete on the new standards. Will there be further changes – undoubtedly – as the policy reflects the actual implementation on the ground – and with the DfE policy teams moving into the ESFA that can only bring the policy and delivery elements together in a helpful way.
Director of Policy
The Federation for industry Sector Skills & Standards