Government gives L&D professionals inadequate time to comment on the new IfA

The Government is criticised for the “absurdly short period of time” given for responses to the scope and working of the new Institute for Apprenticeships

Time is running out for L&D professionals to respond to the Government’s consultation, released recently, on the remit and operation of the new Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA).

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Less than a month has been allowed for external feedback on the plans for the IfA, with a deadline of January 31 for responses to the consultation. 

The lack of time being given for the sector to have an input into the new organisation has been condemned by shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden.

Speaking to TJ, he said: “It’s extremely late for the government to be issuing this consultation but I’m afraid it’s entirely typical of the lack of resources, dither and delay there has been over his whole process.”

The Government has given stakeholders “an absurdly short period of time” to consider and respond to the consultation, Mr Marsden said. “This is something supposed to define the future of training and apprenticeships for a generation but ministers are treating it far too lightly.”

This comes amid mounting concerns over whether the IfA will be ready to hit the ground running in April, when it is due to come into being. 

The consultation outlines how the new body will be tasked with speeding up the approval of new standards and assuming the Government’s current role of quality assurance. 

It admits that “transitioning functions from the existing system to the Institute will be challenging” but maintains that “An independent organisation led by employers will deliver the best results.”

The new body will be expected to take responsibility for ensuring that apprenticeship standards are “comprehensive, concise and coherent.” 

But the consultation adds: “There are many different organisations involved in assuring various different aspects of the quality of apprenticeships – including Ofsted, Ofqual, the Skills Funding Agency, HEFCE and QAA and, in future, the Office for Students.”

Although the IfA “does not have an explicit statutory role which gives it any precedence over any of these partner organisations,” it will be expected to “assume a leadership role.”

The consultation itself is fundamentally flawed, according to Rhion Jones, programme director, The Consultation Institute. He said: “We have now looked at the document and I have to tell you that it reflects the worst kind of tick-box exercise…Not only does it fail to identify those parts of the Guidance where the Department is open to influence, it does not contain a single question which consultees can answer and fails even to properly describe its target audience.”

The Government’s proposals have prompted criticism from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), which represents providers who deliver over three-quarters of England’s apprenticeships.

Mark Dawe, chief executive, AELP, said: “Big questions remain on standards and assessment which is why AELP is calling for a complete pause on the whole process. In our view, there would be less cause for confusion if Ofqual was given the overarching role on assessment on behalf of the IFA.”

He added: “Although the IFA has highly experienced leadership to set it up, there is still no board in place and we are concerned about its capacity to handle the size of the proposed remit.”

And Elizabeth Crowley, skills adviser, Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, told TJ: “It would have been better if there had been more time allowed for this process given the importance of the Institute.”

She added: “The devil will be in the detail and unfortunately at the moment I just think that in many cases the detail is just not there.”


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