Urban areas facing ‘apprenticeship desert’ unless programme reforms are fixed

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) say the government’s proposals for funding apprenticeships will put provision for young people in disadvantaged urban areas at risk.

The national trade association believes London would be hit the hardest, which goes against Theresa May’s social mobility agenda.
AELP CEO Mark Dawe said: ‘We believe AELP’s concerns about the proposals can be simply resolved as we have suggested in our response and it is right for the government to press ahead with the levy and its apprenticeship policy. Some aspects of the reform need to be phased and introduced later than April 2017 to ensure a far less risky transition.
“We are ready to share solutions with ministers and officials to assist in the successful implementation of reforms for a skills programme which is so vital for Britain’s economic future and for promoting social mobility.
“Major concerns about apprenticeship opportunities for young people Theresa May’s social mobility agenda could be seriously undermined unless the government’s proposed reforms to apprenticeships maintain the vital support that has been in place for learners to date, according to apprenticeship training providers.
In response to last month’s DfE consultations on the levy-related reforms, AELP has questioned why all apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year olds should not be fully state funded, consistent with other forms of education and training for that age group. It warns that in addition to 16-18, proposed new Press Release 02/09/2016 2 funding rates for 19 to 23 year olds will make future apprenticeship provision unviable in many business sectors.
Estimates by funding experts vary because of the complexity of the government’s new funding proposals but the apparent removal of area and disadvantage elements could mean funding rates cut by half for the most vulnerable and needy learners on apprenticeships. The end result would be that these learners would have the choice of an apprenticeship taken away from them and areas such as inner London becoming apprenticeship deserts.
The AELP submission in response to the consultations also calls for:
– apprentices at level 2 and level 3 being fully funded for productivity and social mobility reasons
– a reworking of the government’s proposals to reform the subcontracting of apprenticeship training which will meet the needs of employers and safeguard specialist provision while introducing the appropriate controls and transparency
– proper transition arrangements under the reforms – currently the risk of policy and delivery failure is extremely high
– The approach to the new Standards and End Point Assessment needs to be properly reviewed.
Dawe added: ‘Why should apprentices be the only 16 – 18 year olds not to get free education and training? This approach appears discriminatory. Social mobility and improved productivity have been rightly identified as key policy drivers of the new government for a post-Brexit Britain; in the short time we have available before the levy starts, we need a constructive dialogue with the government to shape an expanded apprenticeship programme which will support these objectives.
AELP claim negotiating on the price of the training will damage quality and says that the new government should abandon the idea of employers being able to negotiate a price with a training provider for the delivery of apprenticeship training.
“There is no other part of DfE’s education and training system where the rates for delivery are not set. We believe that keeping negotiated funding will lead to a fall in quality of provision as prices are driven downwards and impact the social mobility agenda. Such a policy encourages inappropriate behaviour and, for example, we are already seeing employers asking providers to pay them to have access to their levy – this has to be wrong. The solution is all apprenticeship funding should be at fixed rates for each standard or framework.”


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