On the 11 July the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships held their annual meeting at Westminster Hall, where they officially launched their 2017-18 Annual Report. The panel (Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Skills; Catherine McKinnell MP (Conservative), Co-Chair, APPG on Apprenticeships; Catherine McKinnell MP (Labour), Co-Chair, APPG on Apprenticeships and Stephen Metcalfe MP, Government Apprenticeship Ambassador) explored the issues raised by the Annual Report and responded to the group’s recommendations to government, politicians and educators.
The report made the following recommendations:
- Government should ensure that the apprenticeships system – including the Apprenticeship Levy – is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of business, and allows SMEs to access the resources they need to contribute fully to the delivery of apprenticeships.
- Government should ensure that educational providers are equipped to meet the needs of a modern economy, providing programmes which are flexible and can be tailored to the requirements of apprentices and employers.
- Schools should ensure that all young people have adequate access to careers advice which explains the full range of options available, is delivered by someone with the relevant skills, and gives parity of esteem to apprenticeships.
- Government should appropriately resource schools to provide high quality careers advice and incentives to give parity of esteem to apprenticeships when advising young people.
- National and Local Government should work with employers and other organisations who work with SMEs, such as banks, to promote apprenticeships to their SME customers. Consideration should also be given to new ways of supporting the recruitment of apprentices through the pooling of available resources such as Apprenticeship Levy underspend.
- Employers should seek to provide a clear path for career progression for apprentices to ensure that an apprenticeship is an attractive choice for a sustainable career.
- More should be done to address the retention of underrepresented groups in apprenticeships, by ensuring that workplace environments are accessible throughout employment and not just at recruitment.
- National Government should work with Local and Devolved Government to ensure that the apprenticeships system is responsive to the needs of all parts of the UK but also provides consistency for employers who operate across the country.
It is pleasing to see that APPG has acknowledged some of the concerns we raised for the sector, in particular recommendations 1 and 8.
The panel and group discussion raised concerns about the apprenticeship reforms:
- Levy flexibility – The Government Ambassador stated there will need to be a discussion on how unused funds can be spent by levy paying employers on upskilling, i.e. the need for some flexibilities or tweaks on the levy policy. There was agreement among the panel and attendees. Suggestions included using some of the funds to encourage employers to go into schools to educate teachers and give students careers advise and use the levy to support training by using it for apprentices’ transport costs.
- Standards development – the criticism here is the time it is taking for standards to be approved and the consequential impact this has apprenticeship enrolments and the apprenticeship brand. Also, the importance of including digital skills in every standard both general and route specific skills.
- Communication to users and SMEs – better communication is needed to encourage SMEs to enrol apprentices and young people to consider the apprenticeship option as viable and an equivalent option.
- IAG – was also mentioned several times in the discussion, the main point being the lack of appropriate IAG for young people and the need for IAG to be available to young people and their guardians at an early age.
- Apprenticeships for all – The need for programmes, to encourage young people NEET to consider an apprenticeship programme and increase the number of 19-24 year olds onto apprenticeship programmes.
The subjects the APPG are planning on reviewing this year are:
- Apprenticeships and Brexit
- Applying the lessons learnt from the private sector to public sector apprenticeships.
- Diversity, disability and apprenticeships
- The career development opportunities and the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on careers
- Parents, teachers and friends raising the esteem of apprenticeships
- Apprenticeship levy two years on (including the flexibility issue)
- Impact of devolution
- How to support micro businesses
- Apprentices pay and rewards
- The role of pre-apprenticeship programmes in engagement of young people
- Good practice in pastoral care.