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Apprenticeship quality should not be sacrificed says Ofsted chief

Last week we spoke about the surprising news that top apprentices stand to earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than graduates from Russell Group universities.

Safeera Sarjoo
12th February 2016
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However there were areas for improvement such as changing attitudes towards apprenticeships socially and creating higher level apprenticeships across various sectors so that there are more opportunities for people to progress within their career.

Ofsted Chief Sir Michael Wilshaw waded in and criticised the government’s apprenticeship plan, saying that boosting the number of apprenticeships devalues the whole idea. We can see his point as there is such a strong focus on meeting targets. This can leave budding apprentices feeling short-changed when it comes to the skills and education they’re receiving through these schemes.

An Ofsted report claims that apprentices are not being stretched by low-level apprenticeships and we completely agree. Some recruits aren’t even aware that they’re on an apprenticeship program and are being accredited for skills like coffee making and mopping floors.

A spokesperson for Ofsted told The Telegraph that ‘The growth in the number of apprenticeships over the last eight years has diluted their quality, with many low-skilled jobs being classed as apprenticeships and used to accredit the established skills of people who have been in a job for some time.’

Ofsted are set to highlight that apprenticeship providers will need to be held more rigorously to account. In addition to the governments plan to protect the term ‘apprenticeship’, standards have been developed by trailblazers which will highlight what apprentices will be doing according to their job role. Each standard has an assessment plan also produced by trailblazers, which should make evaluations easier.

A recent webinar, ‘The future of apprenticeships’ held by the NCFE, touched on the issue of employers not feeling completely confident enough when it came to assessing apprentices. Considering that three million apprenticeships will be in place by 2020, it is worrying to think that several employers are at a loss on how to best gauge performance and assess apprentices on skills and training that is crucial to the position they’ve taken on. A lack of confidence means inaccurate assessments, which is detrimental to apprentices in the long run.

There are also a lot of unanswered questions, particularly around the levy. How do we determine what a large employer is? Will the government co-fund? Will the levy pay for all apprentices? How will SMEs be funded?

It has become clear from this recent webinar and today’s comments from Sir Michael Wilshaw that there is still a lot to do when it comes to ironing out uncertainties being felt across sectors about the growing number of apprenticeships. Sure, it’s great that some apprentices can earn more than graduates, but we cannot ignore the fact that in order to give a genuine, educational alternative to people, we have to ensure the framework around the idea of apprenticeships is solid and functional.

At Training and Courses, we ensure that we work with providers who are just as passionate about apprenticeships as we are. Don’t believe us? Start your search today and see what you find. 

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