First off, let me introduce myself, I’m Joanne Cavey from Opportunity Sutton, the department of the council responsible for securing the finance for the Sutton Apprenticeship Hub. Recently Chris Jones, the Sutton Education Business Partnership (EBP) Manager, and I went to a national seminar called ‘Where next for apprenticeships?’
Westminster has set a target of 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020. That’s 600,000 starts a year. Meaning at least one new apprenticeship would be started every minute for the next 5 years!
They are particularly keen to encourage young people, aged 16 to 19, with good digital skills to start an apprenticeship. It is expected that in the future, those working in areas such as science, technology, engineering and construction, and those working in digital services are likely to be in great demand.
The funding for apprenticeships will be changing. We may know more following the Chancellor’s Spending Review in a few weeks’ time.
Jennifer Coupland, the Deputy Director who heads up the Apprenticeship Unit across the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, told us that government are focussing on 10 areas for development in relation to apprenticeships:-
- Quality – Employers have been encouraged to help develop new frameworks through the Trailblazer pilots. These are also expanding into sectors not currently offering apprenticeships and some will be seen as viable alternatives to the higher education route.
- Funding – Employer led Levy on taxes to fund apprenticeships. The consultation has now concluded and an announcement will be made in the Chancellor’s statement about how apprenticeships will be funded in the future.
- Public sector – Government wants to increase the number of apprentices in the public sector. The numbers are currently lower than the private sector. Also want to look at procurement and contracting criteria to encourage apprenticeship take up in supply chains.
- Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (less than 250 employees) – removing the barriers and constraints faced when taking on an apprentice. Government is working with the National Apprenticeship Service to determine the best way forward.
- Large Businesses – Government is working with the big players in the sector on programmes of work.
- Marketing and Communications – TV adverts, radio, success stories.
- Careers – Government is working through the new Careers Company to deliver better quality and valid careers advice to young people.
- Supply side – Government is working with Further Education Colleges to develop capacity in the sector
- Apprenticeship Governance – Setting a steady state for the sector to allow the new regime to bed in.
- Higher level Degree Apprenticeships – Government is developing more opportunities to secure a degree via an apprenticeship route. Working with many Universities to develop this area.
There were lots of questions from the floor focussing on;
- Learning from other countries and sharing good practice
- The quality of placements
- Whether the levy is being seen as a panacea
- The quality of careers advice to young people
- Job outcomes
- Small business support
- How learners are being heard
- How historical policy impacts upon the here and now
Jeremy Benson, Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications was up next and gave us these interesting facts:-
- 21,000 qualifications on the register
- 165 awarding bodies
- In 2012/13 70 awarding organisations awarded approx 1 million certificates
- Half a million starts per year
- Significant number of starts are over 19 when they start an apprenticeship.
- 400 trailblazers starts in 14/15
- 60 new standards ready in October 2015 – 25 at level 4 or above.
A number of speakers followed but one of the stand out comments of the day for me was this…
“There is a direct link between weaknesses in UK productivity and lower levels of intermediate skills.”
Another key message was about spreading the apprenticeship word. Dominic Gill, Apprenticeship Policy Lead at Microsoft UK and Sharon Walpole CEO at the Walpole Media Group spoke passionately about best ways to spread the word.
In their experience, current apprentices or employees who have recently completed their apprenticeship are the best people to speak to young people about apprenticeships.
The next big date from a policy perspective is the Chancellor’s Spending Review which will be Wednesday 25 September 2015.