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EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler responds to the publication of the Richard Review of Apprenticeships.

Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of the EEF

When the government announced it had commissioned an independent review on apprenticeships, led by entrepreneur Doug Richard, the general feeling at EEF was ‘not another review’ (p14).

The Holt Review was still due to be published and the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee was still conducting its inquiry into apprenticeships.

Fast-forward five months and we have the Richard Review before us. And we are happy to report it is pretty impressive – a true reflection of where manufacturers see the future of apprenticeships.

In recent years boosting apprenticeships has been a numbers game. This year the number of apprenticeship starts hit the half-million mark – but what about focus on quality and relevance?

The Richard Review and subsequent recommendations should bring balance to a revival of the key elements of what an apprenticeship used to be and the need to develop apprenticeships which maximise the opportunities of today and the future.

“Richard goes further with his model for driving apprenticeship investment through the national insurance or tax system”

The Review quite rightly covers a lot of ground, but with relevance to industry we believe recommendations around redefining and clarifying apprenticeship ‘levels’ to be key as well as re-routing funding through employers and creating new industry standards.

With regards to funding, Richard’s recommendations build on existing work to give employers more ownership – observe the Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot. But Richard goes further with his model for driving apprenticeship investment through the national insurance or tax system. This really would give employers greater purchasing power.

As we acknowledged in our Skills for Growth report, a reduction in national insurance contributions gives employers of all sizes the ability to draw down funding, to use with their own money, which will then drive further investment in apprenticeships. Such a model will also ensure that funding remains stable – not subject to short-term political change.

On creating a new industry standard the Richard clearly advocates establishing an industry standard that all employers can understand and own. This will drive up levels of ambition and ensure that qualifications are relevant to employers, which a recent EEF survey revealed is not yet the case.

Doug Richard has sent a positive message to the industry, and offers real recommendations that employers can relate to.