Putting apprenticeships to work: new recommendations

11 November 2016 -


A new focus on quality over quantity will make sure that the UK’s Apprenticeship programme succeeds, says a new report

Matt Scott

The leading think tank Policy Exchange is recommending a rethink of the government’s apprenticeship programme.

The Policy Exchange paper said that the government has, thus far, focused too much on quantity over quality and should now focus on the quality of programmes available alongside its plans for creating three million new apprentices by 2020.

Jonathan Simons, co-author of the report, said: “A pure focus on numbers risks undermining the credibility of the Apprenticeships programme in the eyes of employers and young people. A skills system in a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few, has the potential to do so much better.”

Tom Richmond, co-author of the report, added: “Some of the apprenticeships designed by Trailblazers are excellent and promote the kind of training that embodies apprenticeships in this country and abroad.

“But there are a number of weaknesses in the Apprenticeship reforms and the wider strategy that threaten to undermine the principles at the heart of it. In particular, the desire for speed has reduced the time available to put sufficient quality filters and a rigorous definition of what an Apprenticeship is.”

To help improve standards, the report calls for: • The introduction of a new high level quality target for the Apprenticeships programme alongside the existing focus on quantity, creating a ‘Numbers Plus’ approach to future Apprenticeships • A beefed up Institute for Apprenticeships to become the guarantor of quality and the voice of employers • The qualifications regulator, Ofqual, would be required to set the standards for how future Apprenticeships should be assessed.

CMI director of strategy Petra Wilton said: “This report clearly recognises that some of the trailblazers are excellent, but apprenticeships as a brand is all too often tarred with past perceptions and the older frameworks. CMI has been privileged to work with leading employers to develop a full suite of management and leadership trailblazers, including the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship.

“These standards build in professional recognition routes and offer robust, high-quality apprenticeships. We support the recommendations for quality targets and believe professional bodies can play a critical role in raising standards and supporting both employers and learners through this new age of apprenticeships. We also call on Government to switch off the older apprenticeship frameworks as soon as new standards are available, to help build uptake and understanding of the new, high-quality apprenticeships.”

The government has pledged to invest £2.5bn in apprenticeships by 2019-2020 and give employers greater powers to design training that meets their needs.

All apprenticeships must be of the highest quality, and all standards are now developed by employers themselves and rigorously checked before being introduced,” said Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon. The new Institute for Apprenticeships, to be launched in April 2017, is a key plank of this employer-centric policy.

For more information on management apprenticeships, visit apprenticeships.managers.org.uk

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