The Governments Apprenticeship Strategy is Certainly a Hot Potato
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general at the CBI comments: “Firms are passionate about apprenticeships, and it’s this passion which drives deep frustration over the levy plans as they currently stand. We are calling for a radical rethink.”
There is a huge demand for skilled workers in the high-tech and manufacturing sectors and the proposed levy is causing confusion and delays to current apprenticeship schemes already in place. The levy is due to come into effect in less than a year away, from April 2017, and yet companies feel they are being ‘kept in the dark’ over key details, according to the CBI, which also suggested it was doubtful if the launch would be ready in time.
Gordon Marsden, the shadow minister for apprenticeships, said there is concern over the levy as it currently stands.
“Even last week’s statement from the government on the apprenticeship levy process was very thin. It has still not answered the mounting chorus of concerns from employers and providers about the logistics and very tight time scale involved in starting the Levy in 2017,” he said. “On top of this there are huge questions on how it can be delivered successfully by 2020 given that BIS and SFA capacity to do this is being shredded by huge staffing cuts.”
Jenny Holloway CEO of FashionCapital and sister company Fashion Enter provides apprenticeships in the growing fashion manufacturing sector, she said:
“We’ve run the programme for the last six years and we were the first to trial the Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Fashion and Textiles with ASOS.com.
“The current apprenticeship is an accredited qualification. Level 3 is roughly 2 A-levels and carries UCAS points. The qualification is based around ‘frameworks’ and our most popular framework centres on garment technology as one pathway and also patterns. Recently we’ve opened a stitching pathway with Debenhams. Frameworks will be phased out in two years and will be replaced by ‘Standards’ and these new standards do not carry UCAS points.
“The new system was focused on employers. I get this! The employers pay for the apprentices so the employers need to say what training they should have. Initial consultation of apprenticeships was with the big guns such as British Aerospace; companies that have the revenue for their own training departments.
“The Government did not consult with the training providers until far too late. I spent five years at night school and day courses training to be a teacher, an assessor and an internal quality auditor. Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m a stickler for high attainment of the best quality standards for the company. I took the view that I couldn’t impose high benchmarks of quality assurance if I didn’t know myself. I’m too old for night school! It nearly killed me off!
“The lack of government research into the experiences are viewpoints of training providers is one big issue. Employers do not understand the rigours of Standardisation, the Matrix, IAG, the 3 x Evidence rule etc. Ask any employer if they like to be involved in apprenticeship programmes – it’s a no-brainer- of course everyone would say yes. As always the devil is in the detail.
“So now we’re faced in our fashion sector of the phasing out of the current scheme of frameworks by 2018 and the new standards have not even started. Standards mean that ‘someone’ has to pull together ten employers around a table and seek agreement on the new standard! For free of course! No money to create these new standards and I can’t for a moment think that it’s going to be easy to seek agreement of ten powerful retailers either.
“So yes the current apprenticeship programme strategy is a mess. We had a great framework that certainly needed tweaking but it didn’t need a radical overhaul. If the government’s aim was to create an easier way forward to achieve the magical 3m target for apprenticeship placements well that’s not going to happen in Fashion. The current confusion has meant prospective employers are waiting to see what happens before decisions are made. However the clock is ticking merrily away towards April 2017 when the apprenticeship levy is imposed. Let’s hope government sees the looming dangers and extends the frameworks used beyond the next election.”