‘Cautious welcome’ for apprenticeship reform

Sector skills council, People 1st, has expressed a ‘cautious welcome’ to the changes to apprenticeship programmes recently announced by the government. The Prime Minister claims the reformed scheme will bring greater focus on quality for the learner and ease of use for employers. The reformed apprenticeships will be employer led and designed so they respond to the needs of industry, meaning each apprentice has the skills required by the sector. They will also be focused on quality and graded on completion. Groups of companies have come together to give industry the power to lead the design of these new apprenticeships. More than 60 companies who took on over 13,000 apprenticeship starters in 2011 to 2012 are involved in these groups, which are known as Trailblazers.

Chief Executive at People 1st, Brian Wisdom, said, ‘We’re really pleased with this decision, especially as employers in our industry have been preparing for this outcome and working with us for some months on how these standards could look. However, given employers have been preparing for these changes, it’s certainly disappointing that neither our industry nor any other service sector has been named among the trailblazers that will test the model. The employer groups that we’ve been working with have expressed strong concerns that the models that are developed may not work for their businesses. A “one-size-fits-all” approach will not easily transfer across other sectors and we have a real concern that SMEs will be excluded as there is no requirement to get a broad range of industry views. To help combat this we’re already working with employers in our sector to support them in their bid to join the Trailblazers.’

The newly announced changes also mean that apprenticeships will be made to existing employees of all ages, but only in cases where there is substantial training required in a skilled occupation. Brian noted that People 1st welcomed the fact that apprenticeships will not be restricted to new staff, but expressed concerns around other changes. He said, ‘The 20% offsite requirement and greater financial contribution from employers will probably discourage some employers from offering apprenticeships, particularly SMEs, which will make it harder to address skill needs. Of an even greater concern is that these changes and possible drop in apprenticeship numbers comes at a time when a third of the 660,000 new jobs available will be for managers and skilled roles. While there is still time for employers to prepare – and we know this is an area that they’re already working on – significant changes like this will create considerable uncertainty and upheaval. Our real concern is that all of this combined may make it more difficult to attract people into skilled roles in passenger transport through apprenticeships.’


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