Skills Minister John Hayes yesterday expressed the Government's support for apprenticeships as a part of its commitment to the UK skills strategy.
Hayes has long proclaimed himself as an advocate of lifelong learning and today he demonstrated his conviction to delegates at the Group Training Association England’s annual conference that the Government by expressing his commitment to work based learning and apprenticeships.
Encouraging better matchmaking between skills needs at an employer level and the development of relevant skills on the part of educational bodies and learners Hayes challenged small and medium sized businesses to engage more closely with local apprenticeship schemes and agencies in order to make themselves accessible. In particular the Minister spoke of the role Group Training Associations (GTAs) play in helping businesses, take on apprentices.
Hayes said: “The truest measure of the success or failure of this Government’s commitment to apprenticeships will be found in how well-equipped today’s young people will be in future years to face the shifting challenges of life and work.
“To be successful in that, we must create a radically new model for workplace training with apprenticeships at its heart and with partnership between Government, employers and individuals as its motive force.
“We have promised to re-shape the apprenticeships programme to ensure that it provides more high-quality training opportunities. We have already begun to deliver on that promise by redeploying £150 million to provide an extra 50,000 places.”
Addressing the development of GTAs Hayes has requested that the Skills Funding Agency review what funding they might make available to support the work of GTAs and to help them expand. He told his audience at the Institute of Directors that GTAs can and should play a major role in our drive to increase advanced and higher level skills in growth sectors.
He also invited GTA England to put forward a set of recommendations to him that will help the sector grow in a way that will encourage even more businesses to get involved in apprenticeships and other training.
These recommendations will help to guide future skills policy in conjunction with contributions currently being submitted nationwide in a skills consultation initiative led by the Department of Innovation and Skills. The deadline for submissions to this document, which hopes to improve communication between business and further education institutions and influence education structures accordingly, is on October 14 this year. SME employers have been strongly encouraged to submit their ideas to these consultations.
At present Hayes has expressed three major strands to the Governments strategy in this area:
•Expanding the number of apprenticeship places on offer and prioritise more advanced skills levels at level three and above
•Take a firm approach in establishing what the employer contribution to apprenticeship programmes should be
•Make it easier for businesses to access apprenticeships, and in particular small businesses which can take advantage of the support GTAs offer in this respect.
Giving further news on the rationalisation of the skils landscape Hayes also took the opportunity today to announce that UKSkills, an independent charity which champions skills and learning for work through competitions and awards, is to become part of the Skills Funding Agency in a drive to provide a more coherent programme for the promotion of strategic skills and apprenticeships through international competitions and award ceremonies which recognise home grown talent. A highlight in this initiative will be the WorldSkills 2011 international competition which is being hosted by the UK in London in October 2011.