CMI’s 10-point plan calls on government to make urgent apprenticeships reforms

  • DfE data shows number of new apprenticeship starts drops for successive quarter
  • CMI calls for government to make apprenticeships “more flexible and less bureaucratic”
  • The 10-point plan for reform sets out direction for transformation

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has called on government to make urgent reforms to its apprenticeships programme and the Levy to make it "more flexible and less bureaucratic".

The call follows the publication today [14 June] of the Department for Education’s latest quarterly apprenticeships starts data, which has shown another successive period of decline since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017.

To tackle the decline in the number of apprentices, CMI's chief executive Ann Francke has co-authored a 10-point plan for reform with the British Chambers of Commerce’s director-general, Adam Marshall. This sets out five recommendations each for government and employers for taking action to reverse the drop in apprenticeships starts since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017.

The drop in the number of apprenticeship starts shows that government needs to make apprenticeships a lot more flexible and a lot less bureaucratic. This is a transformation - not a tweak - and needs to be much more clearly communicated and managed. It's a missed opportunity which managers overwhelmingly support.

Government must help employers understand that apprenticeships aren’t just for young men in overalls learning a manual trade – they're essential for closing the skills gaps in the modern services, tech, and manufacturing industries. It also needs to make it clear that apprenticeships are critical for up-skilling and re-skilling workers of all ages and career stages, not just school leavers. Plus, it should work with providers and employers to ensure that the 20% off-the-job learning can be more flexibly and progressively delivered.

The current system is too bureaucratic, too spread out and too confusing for many employers to navigate. Government should appoint a single accountable entity responsible for the successful creation, funding, execution and monitoring of apprenticeships and ensure employers' voices are fully heard across the board. Fixing apprenticeships will be critical for driving productivity, and closing the professional skills gap that employers are already experiencing in the run-up to Brexit.

Ann Francke, CEO of Chartered Management Institute (CMI)

To make it work for all, this 10-point plan sets out recommendations for how the government implements the Levy and how employers make use of it to upskill their workforce.

  1. Transform the Skills Landscape
  2. Ensure that everyone benefits from the apprenticeship reforms, and help private, public and third sector employers get the transformational change in the quality and quantity of technical and business skills they need in the workplace. Better technical, management, digital and data skills are vital to both our manufacturing and services sectors. Re-skilling and up-skilling existing employees must be a key part of the solution.

  3. Listen to business and reform the Levy
  4. Help businesses train more people by relaxing the complex and restrictive Apprenticeship Levy rules that make it feel more like a tax than an incentive to invest in skills. For access to quality training, funding bands must reflect the true cost of provision. For many employers, the Levy has displaced budgets for other essential forms of skills development, risking future growth and productivity, so let’s include other accredited quality training in the scope of the funds. Focus for employers must be placed on return on investment. Reforming the Levy now will re-engage employers and help boost skills development across sectors and local communities.

  5. Provide Efficient, Single Point Accountability
  6. Keep the system simple and transparent, with a single accountable agency. The Institute for Apprenticeships should be resourced to bring forward apprenticeship standards more quickly and take on end-to-end responsibility for the successful funding, execution and monitoring of apprenticeships policy. Employers - not civil servants – should set and approve standards. Have a single body responsible for external quality assurance, to build trust and reduce cost and complexity for employers.

  7. Measure the Impact, Not the Target
  8. Business wants people with the right skills to fill job vacancies, and this means getting access to quality training, at the right time and in the right location. Businesses must commit to investing more in the training and development of our people, and education providers must work with employers to find effective ways to measure return on investment, but we need the information, the flexibility, the funding and the training provision in place at a local level. Support our drive for quality over an arbitrary numerical target – this is the way to improve social mobility and productivity and close the skills gap that threatens the UK economy.

  9. Keep It Joined Up, Stable and Consistent
  10. Constant tinkering and changes in policy and funding is bad for businesses and learners. Work with employers to get the apprenticeship reforms fit for purpose, and then keep the system stable, consistent and joined-up across the Industrial Strategy. To boost competitiveness and productivity, business needs apprenticeships and other quality forms of in-work training at all levels in the workforce. Higher level degree apprenticeships should be encouraged to improve participation, social mobility and narrow the gender pay gap.

  1. Get Involved, Informed and Tackle Your Skills Needs
  2. New Apprenticeships, designed by business for business, are a great way to bring young people into the workforce and to re-skill and up-skill existing employees at all levels in the organisation – including leadership and management. Find out about the new apprenticeship standards for your sector, how to recruit apprentices and how to access funding and high-quality training for your team.

  3. Find Flexible Ways To Manage Training
  4. Apprenticeships combine work and learning, helping your staff to do their job better. For some firms, off-the-job training can be difficult to manage, but it does not mean your employee has to have one day a week off work. The best work-based training not only helps the trainee, but if well planned can also add immediate benefit to the employer. Work with your training provider to identify sensible, flexible and creative training opportunities - including online workplace training, work-based assessments and other time that you invest in developing your apprentice.

  5. Commit to Investing Long-Term In The Skills Of Your Workforce
  6. We in business have to acknowledge that the majority of firms have been underinvesting in skills for decades, leaving the UK far behind our international competitors. Employers across most regions and sectors are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit skilled people. All businesses can play a part in fixing the skills crisis. Ensure you have access to the skills you need now and in the future by investing long-term in the training and development of your workforce. Skill development is strategic - ensure it is part of your strategy.

  7. Embrace Wider Workforce Planning
  8. Apprenticeships are open to everyone in the workforce, helping you train existing employees, returners, older workers and young people starting their careers. Management and leadership, digital and data, and a broad range of technical standards are being developed for firms of all sizes and sectors. And you have a choice to work with private providers, universities or FE colleges – there’s more than one route to success.

  9. Measure the Benefits
  10. Better skills, productivity, staff retention and employee engagement are just some of the benefits of investing in apprenticeships. Whether you are a Levy payer with training money to spend, or an SME seeking government funding to support your people development, apprenticeships can deliver significant benefits for your business. Ensure you get the maximum gain from your investment in skills by working with government, training providers, and professional bodies like CMI and Chambers of Commerce.

For more information visit: @cmi_managers

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Notes to editors

About CMI

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is the only chartered professional body for management and leaderships, dedicated to improving managers' skills and growing the number of qualified managers.

Our professional management qualifications span GCSE to PhD equivalents, including the unique Chartered Manager award, which increases earning potential and improves workplace performance. We have been registered as an apprentice assessment organisation by the Skills Funding Agency.

CMI has led the way in developing a suite of trailblazing management apprenticeships with a 40-strong group of employers. These start from Level 3 (team leader) and Level 5 (operations manager) through to Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship. The Senior Leader Master's Degree Apprenticeship gives employers the option to upskill up to executive and C-suite level. CMI is a Skills Funding Agency-registered apprentice assessment organisation.

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