Industry comments on the Richard Review

Posted on 28 Nov 2012

Industry voices comment on the approach, merits and action points of the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, published on Tuesday

Click here for a summary of the Richard Review’s recommendations

Sarah Sillars, chief executive of Semta, the sector skills council:

“Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must keep in mind that the review covers all apprenticeships.

“Engineering apprenticeships have long been developed with employers to ensure that they are fit for purpose and consequently have the healthy completion and retention rates derived from this high quality approach.

“When the government looks at incentives, we will continue to press the case for our sector where the return on investment is so much greater to the economy. Each engineering or manufacturing job contributes £20,000 more to the economy than the average in other sectors.

“There is still more to do in encouraging more women and greater diversity in engineering apprenticeship take-up. In the meantime employers should talk to Semta about how we can remove the barriers and help them access the proven benefits of apprenticeships.”

Andrew Esson, managing director of Quick Hydraulics, member of EEF North East Regional Advisory Board, and a member of the EEF NE Skills Group:

“I’m a bit non-plussed. First the Holt Review, and the the Richard Review. How many reviews do we need!”

Andrew Esson, managing director at Quick Hydraulics
Andrew Esson, Managing Director, Quick Hydraulics

“I welcome many aspects of the latest review, such as declassifying Level 2 apprenticeships; English and Maths to Level 2 standard; redefining apprenticeships as a meaningful qualification, have some concern about the proposal to have a contest for the best qualification. Surely this is where the Sector Skills Councils should step up to the plate and develop a robust apprentice qualification for their sector.”


Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation:

Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills, EEF
Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills at EEF

“Manufacturers may be forgiven for seeing the Richard Review of Apprenticeships as coming to some familiar conclusions. Recommendations on quality, brand and length are not new to manufacturers.

“But it was important to recognise that other sectors might need to raise the bar.

“Doug Richard has, however, bought new perspectives and some ideas and should be warmly received.
Instead of concluding that Apprenticeships should be employer-led without more, he goes further offering a real solutions, where employers and employer organisations are invited to design and develop standards and qualifications, and suggests a funding model using the national insurance or tax system which would give employers greater purchasing power and create a more effective market.

“With the number of apprenticeship starts hitting the half-a-million mark this year, we might think that we are doing everything right and then become complacent. But as the Review clearly points out, to be successful in the future, government action is required now to support employers and we must continue to raise our ambitions on Apprenticeships.”

Ann Watson, managing director of EAL, an organisation that awards industry qualifications:

“Certain issues surrounding apprenticeships are brought up time and again… The Richard Review of Apprenticeships is the latest to highlight the benefits of the vocational pathway…”

“One of the Review’s recommendations is the use of National Insurance breaks or the tax system to incentivise employers to take on apprentices and help raise awareness of apprenticeships among businesses who may not have previously considered the option. This is something EAL has called for before, as such a policy would be especially beneficial for supporting small and medium sized enterprises, which would be more inclined to take on apprentices if greater financial-based support was available.

“Government support through tax incentives would send a strong signal to employers, schools, students and parents that apprenticeships are a worthwhile alternative to a degree. Vocational training is just as important as an academic education and, as the Review states, it is ‘inappropriate for it to be viewed as a lower-status alternative’.

Will Davies, ex-investment banker, owner of property maintenance company and a campaigner for the return of traditional apprenticeships:

“There are over one million young unemployed in this country and they are becoming totally demoralised by the job market. They have to be given confidence in the training and apprenticeships we can offer them. Otherwise, we will be dealing the financial ramifications of our failure for decades to come.

“The traditional apprenticeship has, in the worst cases, dissolved into little more than a source of cheap labour and a means to claim government grants. Employers know how long apprenticeships should be to teach different skills that they require not training agencies.”

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills policy:

Neil Carberry, CBI

“Businesses are best placed to understand their own training needs, so it’s right that employers should have a greater say in apprenticeship design and which training is funded. By putting employers in the driving seat, we can ensure that government funding for training is more closely aligned with the needs of industry and future job creation.

“To make sure that all firms can access the training they need, it’s rightly recognised that we need a simple, accessible funding system, and businesses will welcome the idea of a skills tax credit.”

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite the union:

“We welcome many of the review’s findings in regard to high quality apprenticeships, notably on advanced level three and higher provisions.

“We also welcome the review’s conclusions that a real apprenticeship requires a real job and real employment, underpinned by work-based learning and education. They must benefit the apprentice, employers, industry and society as a whole.

“We welcome the need to root out poor quality, short-term apprenticeships that only benefit the provider.

“However, Unite believes that the review failed to address how public procurement policy can be best used as a driver to increase the uptake of apprenticeships.