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Inquiry into apprenticeship target is necessary

An inquiry launched by the Sub-Committee of Education, Skills and Economy will explore how the government plans to meet their target of three million apprenticeships by 2020.

Safeera Sarjoo
09th March 2016
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They want to understand how their plans will work and at the same time, how apprenticeship standards will be maintained as they push forward to see their pledge through.

Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the Education Select Committee, said: ‘There's been a lot of uncertainty about how the apprenticeship system is going to work and we will want to press the Government on how they are going to ensure businesses, colleges, and students have confidence in the system in the future.’

‘In this inquiry we will examine a variety of issues relating to apprenticeships, not least how we boost the take-up of apprenticeships amongst 16–19 year olds and what is being done to ensure young people are aware of the opportunities available.

‘Good quality apprenticeships offer a route to boosting our international competitiveness and there are sure to be lessons to learn from other countries’ approaches to apprenticeships and technical qualifications,’ he explained.

The inquiry will also look at the apprenticeship levy and how that will be implemented after receiving scrutiny in the past as well. Money raised from this tax will go towards funding training schemes at smaller companies. With that in mind it is expected that every SME will have at least one apprentice within the workforce by 2020.

However some organisations, like the Institute of Charted Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) have voiced their concerns about the levy saying that it should not be a replacement for public funding for apprenticeships but rather be an addition to it.

As if that wasn’t enough concern surrounding apprenticeships, recent news about civil servants being made redundant in order to accommodate apprentices and meet a set quota have left the senior civil servants’ union furious.

Given these circumstances, we completely welcome this inquiry into the implementation of these apprenticeships. Anyone who wants to ensure that apprenticeships are regarded as a legitimate route of education to a successful career would be in favour of this inquiry.

An important aspect that has cropped up time and time again since the pledge was made was the issue of apprenticeship standards. A recent report by the Sutton Trust found that 60% of apprenticeships are set at GCSE standard. If they are to have an equal standing against a university degree then a concerted effort needs to be made in order to change this.

So much has been said about the quantity of apprenticeships that are being created – Welsh Labour have pledged to create up to 100,000 apprenticeships if they succeed in May’s election and BT have recently announced they’re creating 1,400 new apprenticeships and graduate jobs – but will the quality be there? Will apprentices be subjected to experience and learning that will have a long lasting effect and enable them to thrive professionally?

Failure to guarantee a valuable learning experience will have a wider societal effect too and reaffirm those misconceptions about apprenticeships that we are trying to shake off.

These are incredibly important areas that the Sub-Committee will be exploring within their inquiry. They will be calling for submissions addressing some or all of the following:

  • The target of three million apprentices by 2020, how the government proposes to achieve this and how this may affect the ‘skills gap’
  • The proposal for an apprenticeships levy and how this may be implemented
  • The institutional architecture of current provision and how this may be affected by the proposed Institute for Apprenticeships
  • Take-up of apprenticeships amongst 16–19 year olds and steps that can be taken to make more young people aware of available opportunities
  • The process of applying for apprenticeships
  • Routes for progression to higher qualifications for current apprentices
  • The quality of, and minimum standards for, apprenticeships, and how standards can be enforced
  • Lessons from other countries’ approaches to apprenticeships.

It may seem like this Sub-Committee is keeping a watchful eye over the government but the truth is if they don’t, then who will? The implementation of apprenticeships across industries, if done right, will transform our educational landscape. Failure on any element of this, whether it’s standards, the levy or knowledge of the opportunities available, will mean failing a significant percentage of students from prospering professionally.


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