Government could get much more bang for its buck from its existing investment in apprenticeships, say training providers

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Written by Seun Robert-Edomi on 22 June 2015 in News
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At its annual conference in London today, leaders of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) will reinforce their proposals to expand the apprenticeship programme which includes simplification of the current contracting system that is currently one of the biggest barriers to the programme’s growth

Training providers are fully committed to supporting the government’s ambition for the creation of three million apprenticeships but are calling for a review of the current apprenticeship reforms which will not support the growth aspiration. 

At its annual conference in London today, leaders of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) will reinforce their proposals to expand the apprenticeship programme which includes simplification of the current contracting system that is currently one of the biggest barriers to the programme’s growth. They will add that money already in the system could be more effectively spent with providers who can evidence additional demand from employers willing to offer apprenticeship opportunities.

The call comes only days after the announcement in the Queen’s Speech that ministers will have to report annually to Parliament on progress towards achieving the three million ambition which is part of the commitments to put employment and skills issues at the centre of the government’s policy to drive productivity within the UK economy.

The Chancellor’s recent demand for £900m of cuts from the Business and Education departments has prompted the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to put a freeze on any apprenticeship growth requests from providers until after the Budget.  This will inevitably hit apprenticeships starts.

AELP CEO Stewart Segal said: “The SFA survey, following previous similar findings published by CBI and BIS, offers significant evidence that training companies working with employers can provide the drive for growing the apprenticeship programme. It is clearly a myth that providers are not flexible when it comes to delivery and it is providers who will engage more employers in this very successful programme.

“Reforms of the skills system should take this evidence into account.  If we can increase the investment in apprenticeships, make longer term commitments to employers and providers in terms of budgets and improve the funding and contracting system by building on what works, then we can grow the programme and maintain the quality of delivery.”

At the AELP conference, providers will warn that there is now a shortage of candidates with the right skills to fill all of the apprenticeship opportunities available. AELP has always promoted traineeships as the main transition programme for young people because it is a flexible programme that can be tailored to the needs of young people and employers. 

However, the government is still restricting access to traineeships for young people and many employers because there is still the barrier to entry for many providers through the requirement to have an Ofsted grade 2.  AELP has always said that there should be a quality threshold for providers but the Ofsted grade 2 should not be the only measure. Many providers delivering high quality apprenticeships are not able to work with those employers to deliver an effective transition programme because they may not have an Ofsted grade or their current grade is a grade 3.

Segal added: “We have a packed agenda at our conference over the next two days which looks ahead at how employment and skills support can be delivered when public spending is subject to further cuts.  We will also discuss key issues to providers including relationships with local partnerships and the international skills environment.  These are challenging times but training providers can play a major role in developing and delivering employment and skills policies.”       

 

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