15 August 2016
‘Radical Reform’ for Apprenticeship schemes

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has stated that radical reforms are required to improve the quality of apprenticeships to make sure they are a good alternative from the more traditional routes of University. This was based on a collection of essays written by leading experts on vocational training that includes the challenges surrounding apprenticeships schemes in the UK.

The report indicates that while the number of under-25s starting an apprenticeship has increased by 24% since 2010, the number of over-25s increased by 336%. Meanwhile, the number of over-60s grew by 753%. This shows older people are taking up apprenticeships. Is this due to lack of jobs for the older generation, or a change in career? If you speak to your parents, there are a variety of options and careers nowadays than ever before. It was found that the use of apprenticeships to train low-paid – and typically older -employees undermines their role as a route into work for those entering the labour market for the first time.

The CIPD stated six in every ten apprenticeships created in the UK are only at Level 2, equivalent to just GCSE five passes. Also, the percentage of apprenticeship starts for people aged under 25 has dropped from 99.8% of all apprenticeships to 57% in the last decade, while just one fifth of starts at Level 3 were reserved for 16-24 year olds in 2014-15.

The findings also conclude that the Government’s target of achieving three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 and the planned introduction of an apprenticeship levy, will affect the quality of the apprenticeships provided. As the saying goes, it’s about quality, not quantity.

Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, said: “This in-depth analysis of the UK’s apprenticeship system suggests there is still a long way to go before the majority of apprenticeships in the UK really do provide a meaningful, high-quality vocational pathway into employment that is a genuine alternative to university.

“The focus on hitting the three million target threatens to further undermine quality and, while the new Trailblazer frameworks have enabled some employers to develop bespoke apprenticeships that suit their skills needs, they are unlikely to be expanded beyond a relatively small proportion of typically larger organisations.

“The report also makes clear that if we are to have an apprenticeship levy at all then we will need to make it far more flexible, otherwise we risk undermining the quality of apprenticeships further. The CIPD has already called for a delay in the introduction of the levy because we are concerned that rushing it through will have damaging, unintended consequences.

“We are also concerned about the provision of apprenticeships for young people. The Government needs to do more to ensure that young people looking for alternative pathways into the workforce can access advanced and higher level apprenticeships.

“Over time we need to evolve into a system which has a strong institutional framework to help raise the bar for employer ambitions if there really is to be an increase in the quality of skills development and apprenticeships programmes.

“We need to build more strategic partnerships between education and training providers and employers at a local level, which are focused on ensuring learners develop the skills employers need both now and as skills requirements change.”

The report suggests three key areas policy makers need to focus on to achieve better outcomes for learners, employers and the economy:

  • A shift from a market-led system focused on the narrow needs of individual employers towards a more co-ordinated approach that meets the broader needs of learners and the economy
  • The creation of a strong institutional framework to support collective commitment by employers and training providers to raising the quality of skills and apprenticeships. A first step towards this might be to rationalise and invest in the Government’s Trailblazer initiative. This might involve creating a Trailblazer for each broad occupation or sector tasked with developing a much smaller range of broader qualifications that seek to enable progression and mobility in the economy, rather than the current focus on access to a particular job role
  • Enhanced partnerships at a local level between training providers and employers to help improve the quality of apprenticeship provision, including among low-skilled, female-dominated industries such as care and food services

Are you currently undertaking an apprenticeship? Get in touch with us to let us know your views on the quality of the scheme and if it is leading you in the right direction.


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