Report highlights concerns over apprenticeships  

Posted on 6 Sep 2016 by Fred Tongue

The government’s plan to increase the amount of apprenticeships in the UK has been criticised in a new report by the National Audit Office.

The report says that the plans for the Department of Education (DfE) to create 3 million more apprenticeships in the UK needs to be linked to the country’s economic growth policy.

The key findings from the report were that the Department for Education has not set out how it will use the increase in apprenticeship numbers to deliver improvements in productivity, there is also a focus on the trade offs between the costs of plans and value added.

You can find a summary of the report here.

Another key finding is that there has been no definition of what would make the scheme a success, different apprenticeships offer significantly different benefits but don’t explain what these benefits could be.

Some of the issues including the quality of apprenticeships; the resources needed in setting up new standards and the value for the money that the new initiative will provide the taxpayer are also raised in the report.

The report lists several recommendations that the government can take to ensure that DfE can deliver apprenticeships in the best way possible.

Apprenticeships recommendations:

  1. Set out the planned overall impact on productivity and growth, along with short-term key performance indicators to measure the programme’s success.
  1. Ensure that the timescale for further development of Trailblazer standards remains realistic, and is well communicated to employers and providers.
  1. Improve the way that it handles key risks, interdependencies and contingencies across the various elements of the programme.
  1. Do more to understand how employers, training providers and assessment bodies may respond to on going reforms, and develop robust ways of reacting quickly should instances of market abuse emerge.
  1. Determine the respective roles of government bodies and the Institute for Apprenticeships, with particular regard to: overseeing the quality of apprenticeship training; and collecting and analysing relevant data and metrics.

Commenting on the NAO’s report, Tim Thomas, Director of Employment and Skills Policy at EEF said: “Today’s report confirms our concerns that current apprenticeship reforms are focused on quantity and not quality.

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

For manufacturers, apprenticeships are a tool to acquire the skills their businesses need now and in the future and to secure on ongoing pipeline of talent into our industry. As the report highlights, apprenticeships in sectors such as engineering significantly benefit learners, who enjoy higher wage premiums and delivers vital skills the economy needs.

“There remains a significant risk that the forthcoming levy, rushed in its implementation, will damage the apprenticeship brand. That is why EEF, and other industry groups, have called for a delay to get the system, and avoid endless future corrections if an underdeveloped levy is launched.

“If the government does not address the issues that industry, and the NAO, have raised today, we will find ourselves asking, again, why apprenticeships are still not fit for purpose.”