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MPs call for apprenticeship overhaul

At least one additional apprenticeship should be created for every £1m awarded through public procurement, says a report from the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee released today.

The apprenticeship model already operates in some new construction contracts but should become standard for public sector procurement, says the report.

It also recommends a single definition for ‘apprenticeship’, a proposal supported by the Federation of Master Builders which made three recommendations that were taken forward by the committee.

The committee says the government should also define an overarching strategy and clear purpose for the apprenticeship programme and that, as a matter of urgency, the National Apprenticeship Service should review its objectives “with a view to justify a focus on achieving quality outcomes in both the objectives and culture of the NAS”.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Now we just need to ensure the commitment and the funding are applied in the most cost effective way possible. I hope the government will carefully consider each of the committee’s recommendations and I look forward to its formal response.

“The government has already demonstrated its commitment to supporting apprenticeships and its aspiration to raise their status to put them on an equal footing with university.”

The report makes 32 recommendations including proposals to work towards improving the image of apprenticeships, collecting more qualitative data and providing a detailed analysis of the impact the funding structure has on the up-take of apprenticeships by various age groups.

Last year the government invested £1.2 billion into the apprenticeship programme. The same year saw 457,200 people start new training as an apprentice.

Report recommendations:

  • That the government defines an overarching strategy and clear purpose for the apprenticeship programme
  • An urgent review of the objectives and priorities of the NAS to focus more on achieving quality outcomes
  • The government should collect more qualitative information alongside traditional statistics
  • A single definition of an ‘apprenticeship’ should be drawn up
  • The department needs to provide a simpler and more efficient delivery system to improve the administrative process for employers
  • The department needs to provide a detailed assessment of the impact that the funding structure has had on the take up of apprentices by age group
  • That the NAS produce a long-term strategy outlining how it intends to maintain and improve the apprenticeship brand
  • Schools should publish the number of apprenticeship starts alongside the number of university places gained in an academic year
  • The department for education should do more to assist schools in the promotion of vocational training
  • That the NAS is given statutory responsibility for raising awareness of apprenticeships for students within schools and those within under-represented groups
  • That NAS continues to support large employers to engage with the apprenticeship programme, and in particular to use their positions to support local schemes and encourage connected smaller businesses to get involved in the programme
  • That the NAS engages local bodies such as LEPs and local chamber of commerce to target SMEs, and the department must recognise this will require additional funding
  • That the attitudes and perceptions of employers in terms of bureaucracy are closely monitored by the department
  • That both Group Training Associations and Apprenticeship Training Agencies continue to be supported by NAS
  • NAS continue to encourage large businesses to support their supply chain to supplement their apprenticeship programme
  • That the government encourages the employment of apprentices in its procurement contracts and that the department sets out how it proposes to resolve any legal issues preventing the government from attaching requirements for apprentices in major public procurement projects commissioned by itself, local government and publicly-funded bodies
  • That NAS reviews the impact of the implementation of the standards on training quality, regulatory burden and framework availability
  • The ‘functional skills’ regime should be reviewed by the department 12 months after their introduction
  • That the National Apprenticeship Service works actively to encourage progression with employers
  • That the government as a matter of urgency forms a clear strategy to collect and analyse the data necessary to determine value for money
  • Identify which growth sectors will benefit from focussed funding at a more specific level
  • That the National Apprenticeship Service, as a priority, produces a robust methodology for valuing employers’ in-kind contributions
  • That the government takes a more active approach in the future and constantly reviews the profit levels of training providers as an indicator of potential risks to efficiency
  • Quality training providers must be first in line when it comes to allocation of public money


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