The City & Guilds Group is helping employers to shape the government’s policy on how apprenticeships should be funded and managed.
The government believes, like us, that apprenticeships are key to building and retaining a skilled workforce for Britain and has promised three million trained apprentices by 2020. To be able to achieve that target, the way that apprenticeships are designed, funded and managed is changing.
Employers are currently designing the content and assessment of the new apprenticeship standards and the government has proposed an apprenticeship levy to put the spending power clearly in the hands of employers. This means that employers will have more say than ever on how apprenticeship programmes are delivered and how their quality is ensured.
The finer points of these changes are still being debated so the City & Guilds Group is working to ensure that employers’ opinions are heard. Earlier this month it produced a report, Making Apprenticeships Work, with its Industry Skills Board (ISB). The report recommends a detailed 25 point action plan for the government.
To mark its launch, the City & Guilds Group gathered employers and educators together to hear from a panel of ISB members about what makes a great apprenticeship and what needs to change in the system to maintain quality.
All panellists agreed about the positive impact apprentices have on their businesses including Warren Page, from Xtrac, who said: “Apprenticeships are the best way to maintain skills”.
One panellist, Mark Lavington, from PGL Travel, felt constrained by the notion of a fixed-length apprenticeship as this doesn’t give him enough flexibility to train seasonal staff. A discussion around the ideal length of an apprenticeship followed, with everyone agreeing that the length matters less than the quality. The consensus was that learning doesn’t just happen in one block: it’s something people return to throughout their entire careers.
Chair Andy Smyth, from TUI Group, was keen to point out that it’s not all about apprenticeships. The ISB acts as a skills advisory body and while apprenticeships are part of its remit they are not the only answer. The diversity of employers on the ISB allows us to understand the variety of skills needed across different industries and the flexibility that’s required in the system to make it work for everyone.
Discussions around the broader skills agenda will continue over the coming year and we’ll be involved to support employers and to help navigate the changes.