Apprentice reform failing to deliver

Apprentice reform failing to deliver

The Government has failed to make the progress it predicted when it reformed the apprenticeships programme in 2017, a new damning report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found.  

The PAC The apprenticeships programme: Progress review found the number of apprenticeship starts fell by 26% after the apprenticeship levy was introduced and, although the level is now recovering, the Government will not meet its target of three million starts by March 2020.

The Department for Education’s focus on higher-level apprenticeships and levy-paying employers has increased the risk that minority groups, disadvantaged areas and smaller employers may miss out on the benefits that apprenticeships can bring, while some employers are using apprenticeship funds to pay for professional training or management courses that they would otherwise have paid for themselves, the report noted.

PAC Chair, Meg Hillier MP, said: “Ultimately, the lack of progress has disrupted the direction of the programme. The way the programme is evolving is out of kilter with the Department’s objectives: opportunities for people with lower skills are diminishing and apprenticeship starts in disadvantaged communities has fallen.”

“What’s more, take-up from under-represented groups has been too low. We are supportive of the programme’s core objective to draw apprentices from a wider range of social and demographic group, but this is at complete odds with its unambitious targets.”

“We are also concerned about the quality of training: a third of apprentices are being trained by providers who have been rated inadequate or requires improvement by Ofsted and there are currently not enough assessors to meet the demand for end-of-apprenticeship assessments.”

“The apprenticeships programme has laudable ambitions, but the Department’s poor execution has created serious longer-term problems.”

“The Department for Education must get its reform of apprenticeships back on track, realigning the programme with its initial objectives so that as much of the population as possible can benefit from it.”

Commenting on the report, the Freight Transport Association’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling, said: “The Committee is right that adjustments under the Apprenticeship Levy have failed to deliver much increased benefit to the UK’s skills base. FTA believes this is because apprenticeships, whilst great for those to whom they are suited, are not and never will be the total answer to our skills needs.

“In logistics we are crying out for more skilled workers, in HGV driving and in engineering.  And yet FTA’s members are only claiming back a small proportion of the money they contribute under the Apprenticeship Levy because apprenticeships are not suited to the training needs of our people or our companies."