Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
8 OCTOBER 2008
Q20 Chairman: So what is the
answer? What do the Departments do to sort that one out?
Simon Bartley: I do not know whether
the Department can sort that out. That issue has to be considered
by the people in the fieldthe employers who take on these
young people at various stages of their careerwho will
identify the most logical pathways. You must look at the purpose
of the diploma and apprenticeship and understand the justification
of an employer for taking on a young person, or the justification
of a young person for taking it on. A diploma is an applied academic
qualification. We are only three weeks into themtwo weeks
in some schools and collegesand we need to understand more
about them. Diplomas are designed not only to enthuse young people
who have been let down by, bored by or have dropped out of the
pure academic GCSE route, but to excite some of those people who
have been successful at GCSEs and give them a taste of a different
route through apprenticeships, foundation degrees or A-levels.
I have had a small involvement in the construction and built environment
diploma over the past three years. When we started, the issue
of crossover from diplomas into apprenticeships was writ large
in our brief about developing diplomas. It dropped off over those
years because, first, it is a very difficult issue and, secondly,
because getting the diploma bit rightperhaps it is a little
bit siloedwas such an enormous task that there was not
the time nor the inclination to work on it. If I can drop back
to the Level 3 electrician where there is no Level 2, the apprenticeship
builds on a whole series of theoretical ideas. All of you will
remember from your schools that V equals IR, Ohm's law, the whole
concept of currents and circuits and capacitors and so on. It
is technical scientific stuff. An individual may have completed
a diploma that is related not to engineering or construction,
but health and social care. As there has been no deliberate attempt
to tie the type of diploma to the type of apprenticeship, the
person is not likely to come with that underpinning knowledge,
or technical knowledge, that is required for them to become an
electrician. Therefore, you might do a diploma at Level 2 or 3
but it will not actually match up with the information that is
required for an apprenticeship. Just because you have a Level
2 diploma, it should not automatically mean that you have the
knowledge of a Level 2 apprenticeship. They could be two completely
different areas of expertise and underpinning knowledge. If you
go to a public park, you can tell where people walk. It is not
necessarily on the pathways that have been laid down by the local
authority, but on the slightly muddy areas that cut across the
corner from gate to gate that the local authority did not put
in. You see the routes laid out by the individuals who are the
users of the park, rather than the planners. We must be careful
that the Departments do not try to put those paths in as pathways
that will be there for the next 25 years. We need to spend a bit
of timeperhaps not until they become muddy tracks, but
at least until the grass is trodden downon the routes that
people want to take across the park. It is a little early in the
process to draw definitive lines on the diploma to apprenticeship
exchanges. It has to be done soon, but it is too soon to do it
Andy Powell: I would do three
things. I would ensure that our research includes the before and
afters of why people go into apprenticeships in the first place.
Also, we do not have any research or data on what has happened
to previous apprentices. Have they stayed in that industry, have
they been successful, where have they gone? That is something
that the Skills Commission is now starting and that Edge is supporting.
Based on that researchI like Simon's analogy very muchone
is developing stories. We need to make very significant improvements
to the information, advice and guidance to young people, so that
they can access information from previous stories and the paths
that people have trod before, such as why they took one route
and what they learned from it. I will not go into it now, but
we have done a lot of work on that. Such information should be
available these days on websites, and there is a website called
"Horse's Mouth". People should also be able to talk
to others who have trodden those paths and ask them, "Why
did you do a diploma? Why did you do an apprenticeship?"
In summary, that second issue is really about getting that IAG
around stories and what people have done. The third issue relates
to policy; it is wider than apprenticeships. It is extremely important
that we encourageprobably stronger than that; require,
if possiblemore opportunities for young people throughout
their schooling to understand different worlds of work and what
goes on in the world of work, to visit colleges and universities
and to talk to apprentices. There is nothing more important for
young people as they are going through education than that they
start to find out for themselves, to discover and explore, what
they are good at, what they are interested in and who they want
to be. That lead-up and those stories would solve a lot of the
problems associated with how those things interrelate.
Chairman: Right, let us start to drill
down on this.
Q21 Fiona Mactaggart: I am
interested in your path analogy, Simon, because I have been thinking
about it in that way. Of the issues that are identified in world-class
apprenticeships, the critical ones are about the planning and
delivery system and employer engagement; those are the two that
most worry me. I do not see anything in the Bill that requires
transferability between different routes, and sufficient transparency
to enable transferability. I spend my life telling local authorities,
"Do not put a fence there because it will be pulled down.
It just will, because it crosses a stampede path that people are
always going to take." It will be great if we can find some
stampede paths through these learning systems, because that means
that people are using them, and that would be an important step.
However, surely our job should be to make it easier to move between
thingsfor example, to make it easier for a young person
who has embarked on a diploma and who realises that they want
to get into the world of work quickly to shift into an apprenticeship
programme if possible. I am not sure that the Bill makes the kind
of requirements that would ensure that.
Simon Bartley: I think that you
are right. From my reading of the Bill, no compulsion is in place.
Let us not take my analogy of the paths too far. If we can, let
us leave diplomas to one side as the modern thing, and just consider
apprenticeships, O-levels and A-levels. Let us concentrate on
the A-levels. Where are the transferable routes between A-levels
and apprenticeships? My understanding is that if somebody gets
to an AS-levelthey have done one year of what I would refer
to as sixth formgetting them to transfer over to an apprenticeship
is likely to mean starting again at the beginning of the apprenticeship,
because there will be no transfer route. There is no stampede
route, to use your phrase, between A-levels and apprenticeships,
so there is already a flaw in the programme. Perhaps that is why
diplomas are so necessary for the future.
I agree that there should be transparency
and the ability for people to look at these things, but we must
not forget the end purpose of an apprenticeship. The end purpose
of an apprenticeship is to have a young person who is capable
of taking up the craft and career of their choice. We have to
be a little careful to make sure that in the provision of transparency
or the development of the pathwayscompulsory or voluntarywe
do not actually devalue the quality, training or competencies
of the individual at the end of the apprenticeship. If we are
to have pathways from diplomas, A-levels or baccalaureates, or
other areas into apprenticeships, we must ensure that they are
facilitating the development of the young person in the apprenticeship,
not sending them off on a path of false hope, such as, "At
the end of this, I'll be an electrician, a plumber or a hairdresser,
and I did it by doing half an A-level and half an apprenticeship",
and having at the end of that somebody who is neither fish nor
fowl. Let us make sure that they are able to do the job that the
apprenticeship was set up to do. I agree that we need to put in
some pathways. I was only suggesting that we must not stampede.
Perhaps there is another way between the stampede path and the
local authority path. After a little grass has been stepped down,
we can put down some matsso that the grass and the dirt
are not trampled everywherethat can be moved around so
that the main courses of the path can be put in. We can set up
a few tentative paths, after which we can see whether they work.
If they do not work, we can just tweak them, rather than having
to dig them up and put them in place.
Nick Edwards: The Chairman asked
whether the new requirement for young people to stay in schools
until the age of 18 would help the growth of apprenticeships.
I think that it is the other way round. Apprenticeships will help
young people to stay at school and train until 16 to 18. A lot
of young people whom we deal with are school sick. They want to
leave school and go into the world of work. Putting them on an
academic or on an applied learning programme in a school will
not help them. They are ready to go out into the world of work.
An apprenticeship is exactly the right programme for them. People
learn quicker in the world of work than in colleges and schools.
That is the truth.
Q22 Fiona Mactaggart: The
problem for so many young people is that they start a programme
or an apprenticeship, but cannot find employers to take them on.
Will the Bill help that problem?
Nick Edwards: Well, what I did
not see in the Bill which I saw in the previous document was the
proposal for financial assistance for SMEs (Small and Medium-sized
Enterprises) in respect of taking on apprenticeships. That detail
has still not come through. We were encouraged when we saw that
there were to be financial incentives. There are challenges for
employers about taking young people in apprenticeships. Train
to Gain, another competing programme, has not been mentioned.
It will give an employer full Level 2. It is one of the new flexibilities.
Young people with an existing full Level 2 will get an additional
full Level 2 training programme free to the employer at the workplace
much quicker than an apprenticeship. We must remember that a lot
of our learners will have come out of school. They will not all
be 16 to 18s. They will start apprenticeships when they are 18
or 19 years old. Under the present proposals, under the apprenticeship
programme, apprenticeships will be co-funded with the employer.
Up to 50% of the funding for an apprenticeship by 2010 will be
borne by the employer. Under Train to Gain, they can get the Level
2 qualification and first Level 3 qualification free, and that
can be done quicker. We are already beginning to see by our recruitment
numbers that employers are beginning to switch from apprenticeships
to Train to Gain.
Andy Powell: Going back to the
first point about pathways, we put in our written submission that
one of the biggest flaws in the Bill, for example, is that, at
the moment if students did Level 2 GCSE, or when the diplomas
come in, they would be ineligible to do a Level 2 apprenticeship.
That is unhelpful. It is quite legitimate to do GCSEs and start
a construction apprenticeship. So I think that there is a move
there, although I am caricaturing slightly, as all learning involves
a bit of theory in practice. The diplomas are concerned much more
with education and keeping your options open, and, as Simon said,
apprenticeships are more concerned with the training side. On
the whole, one would not encourage someone to do an apprenticeship
unless they had some understanding of the relevant craft, trade,
industry or occupation, and a desire to do it.
With regard to the employersarguably
the biggest issue at presentthe Bill could do more. Some
of that cannot be put in the Bill, but it does mention the public
sector, which is very helpful. The Secretary of State might be
required to at least set targets for the number of apprenticeships
in the public sector, whether that is through national Government,
local government, the NHS or indeed in schools, where we have
some great examples. The Bill could give more support to small
firms, which might take the form of incentives, although I have
yet to read anywhere exactly what the best form of incentive would
be for small firms, so that is a difficult issue. Similarly, the
Secretary of State could be asked to encourage and support the
development of group apprenticeship schemes or group training
associations. In Australia, for example, 10% of all apprentices
go through that way. How do you overcome the problem of apprentices
being taken on by small firms that might not be able to offer
the breadth of experience or might have down times? Essentially,
an organisation could be set up to employ the apprentices and
be linked to many smaller firms so that the apprentices could
go from one to another. We are currently exploring that idea in
London with Robin Shreeve, the head of City of Westminster College.
Q23 Fiona Mactaggart: I am
interested in group apprenticeships. I represent Slough, which
has a diverse economy and many big employers, yet I receive letters
from mothers in my constituency stating, for example, that their
son has written 95 letters but cannot find an employer who will
take him on. In trying to drill down on that problem, it seems
to me that the issue in part is that people do not understand
it and do not want the bother of it. However, some employers work
in very specialist areas, such as plumbers who work with air conditioning,
and do not have the range of stuff that would be required in a
course and so cannot offer apprenticeships. I do not know why
that is more of a problem now, but it does not seem to have been
such a problem historically. How can the Government, through the
Bill, enable that kind of marriage brokering between the air conditioning
guy and the guy who will do some CORGI-registered plumbing and
put them together so that you could give a young person the experience
they require to become a fully qualified plumber through a proper
Simon Bartley: That is a really
good question, and the group training schemes that Andy mentioned
are part of the answer. You have to look at what trade associations
or trade groupings there might be. I do not know the details about
Slough, but there are likely to be 30, 40 or 50 plumbing companies.
Some will be individual sole traders, some will be partnerships,
some will work in the black economy, some will be in small businesses,
and there might be a franchised outlet such as Pimlico Plumbers.
The only body that is likely to take on apprentices on the industry
side will be a trade association or a licensing body, such as
CORGI, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors or
the Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association. They might
be able to do something along the lines that Andy has mentioned.
Another suggestion for solving the problem that you have identified
might be to use a supply chain. One of the things that you rightly
pointed out is that the work done by a plumber today is much narrower
than that done by a plumber 50 years ago. Part of the reason for
that is the way in which buildings are purchased, as a main contractor,
a management contractor or a public-private partnership contractorwhatever
happens to be this week's type of contractorbuys in specific
services, and therefore a small business almost has to specialise
in order to do the work. Once you specialise, that is great; you
can turn out the best person in the world at putting lead joints
between old-fashioned pipes and modern pipes. That person could
win a skills competition. As you have rightly identified, the
difficulty is that someone down the road is an expert at doing
only plastic piping. That is the case until you get them to realise
that they exist and do it. A buildingtake this building,
Portcullis Housewill have required all of those specialist
skills. It is possible that each has been carried out by a different
contractor. The main contractor who was in charge of putting this
building together may have said to one, "You are only good
at doing that so we will use you for that." and to another,
"You are only good at doing that so we will use you for that."
Why on earth should he not have said, "If you both bring
an apprentice, we will ensure that all the plumbing apprentices
experience working with the others, paid for by their own employer"?
That microcosm raises the issue of supply-chain management, which
has been raised in other things that we have talked about. May
I pick up on one of the reasons why employers do not take on apprentices?
About 18 months ago, we questioned employers in the building services
sector informally. We did an unusual thing, which was not to ask
people who were training why they were doing so, but to find people
who were not training and ask them why they were not training.
Quite a lot of information gathering forgets to do that. It is
more difficult to do because in most cases you do not know where
such people are. The primary reason that small employers gave
us for not taking on apprentices in electrics and plumbing to
Level 3 was continuity of work. By making a commitment to take
on a 16 or 17-year-old under an apprenticeship agreement of the
type that is referred to in the Bill, you are saying that you
will continue their skills training for three and a half years
until they become a craftsman or woman. Most small businesses
in the plumbing and electrical industries pay their labour force
on a weekly basis. The main responsibility for the owner is getting
in enough money for the work that he did last week to pay the
people who are doing the work this week and finding the work for
them to do the week after. While there is that mentality, it is
difficult to ask someone to take on a three-and-a-half-year commitment
to a young person. The average size of a plumbing practice in
this country is four members of staff. If there are only two,
three or four plumbers and there is no work in two weeks' time,
who do you think will be the first person to be got rid of? Unless
they are the owner's son or daughter, it will be the apprentice.
Bureaucracy is an issue in receiving the finance of £1,000
for completion. That comes into the equation, but the single biggest
reason that came out for employers not taking people on was the
lack of continuity of work. Crack that one and we can move forward.
Andy Powell: I would go back to
urge you to consider a clause in the Bill that asks the Secretary
of State to encourage and support group apprenticeship schemes.
That would go down to the national apprenticeship service. I have
been given information about models. I have already read about
them because we are supporting one in London that is designed
to solve precisely this issue. Various models have worked here
and in Australia. As always, the issue is with financing. In effect,
you have another intermediary and the question is how that business
model works. If I was in chargeif the Secretary of State
had that obligation, and through him the NAS, you would expect
it to put some seed corn down and really understand the matter.
It should work out which models work and support the development
of new models so that this idea can take place. From our point
of view, the idea of some sort of group scheme is very important.
When an apprentice's work has been completed and there is no new
job, they could then go back to the organisation in charge of
the group apprenticeship scheme and go off to do other work.
Q24 Mr. Carswell: I have a
few general questions. The foreword to the draft Bill talks about
apprenticeships having existed for hundreds of years. It then
goes on to talk about the Government plans; the Government plan
this and the Government plan that. It is very much a Government-driven
thing. Apprenticeships, surely, have not been run by the state
for that long and history tells us that it is quite possible to
have apprenticeships without central Government running it. Is
that not the case?
Simon Bartley: Yes. I could not
possibly tell you when the Government started to fund apprenticeships.
I go back only to the days of the industrial training boards,
of which very few are left. There was Government funding for them,
but you would have to ask somebody what happened before that.
Yes, I am willing to bet that in Victorian times and the time
of Brunel building the steam ships there were apprentices working
and learning how to rivet steel and do all the rest of it. I am
pretty sure that there would not have been any money coming from
the Government to pay them, but there may have been a larger amount
of money within the procurement and the costing of those sort
of projects. I think there is a more recent example of individual
employers taking on or doing training, if not a formal apprenticeship.
As I said earlier, we have been pursuing the issue of adult apprenticeships
for a number of years nowcertainly 10 yearsand there
is some evidence to show that employers have taken on 25 or 35-year-olds
and trained them in a partnership. They have perhaps given the
person some time to go to college at their own cost, or doing
it elsewhere and paying the college fees. There is no Government
money going into that. So, employers have been prepared to do
that, and so have mature individuals. All I would say is that
it has been a small number and it is the only case I can point
Nick Edwards: Well, the Government
were not involved until the apprenticeship scheme completely imploded
in the previous recession. Employers got out of training because
they were looking at their bottom line and cutting their costs.
The Government had to intervene to relaunch apprenticeships. It
is interesting that we talk about the previous apprenticeship
scheme as being almost pre-war. That is because these are not
the same animal at all. The apprenticeship scheme was designed
by an employer for the skills need of that business. The skills
apprentices often learned were not transferable to another business.
They were part of the business plan and had an impact on their
bottom line. It was the way businesses worked; apprentices were
used as cheap labour initially, while they acquired skills. It
was part of the financial plan. The Government had to take up
apprenticeships because they had gone to waste. There was a national
outcry about where young people were going to acquire these skills
and where they were going to be supported. There is a big issue
about employers. Employers do not at the moment see it as their
social responsibility to provide training for young people. They
are running businesses which need to employ people and need to
be effective businesses. Apprenticeships are the only qualifications
that are impacted by the national and local economy. Trying to
grow apprenticeships in the current economic circumstances will
be really challenging. Already at our college, our apprenticeship
numbers are down because businesses are slimming down and cutting
costs in construction. They are not carrying people. Diplomas,
A-levels and degrees are not impacted by the economy. Immediately
the economy downturns, it will have an impact on apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships will dry up again, particularly in the industrial
Q25 Mr. Carswell: So it is
theoretically conceivable that it could be done, whether you like
the idea or not, without central Government doing it?
Nick Edwards: I do not think I
Andy Powell: At one level it depends
what you mean by an apprenticeship. Actually, that style of learning
always has been and always will be one of the most powerful forms
of learning, whether you are a new MP or whatever. It is learning
from people who are more experienced. I suggest that you are asking
what is the appropriate level of Government interference in this
process. I believe that history would tell you that there are
two key roles. First, if you want significant numbers of young
people to learn in this way and have this path to successwhich
I think is importantit is probably unlikely to happen without
some stimulation from Government. Secondly, history shows that
while there will be very good employers, others will exploit young
people. They will not get the breadth of training that allows
them to then go on to other careers. I am in favour not of strong
Government or central planning but of stimulation and quality
control. It seems to me that there does need to be a role for
Q26 Mr. Carswell: Mr. Edwards,
I notice that you have had an involvement with VT, Vosper Thornycroft.
Can you envisage a system in which the apprenticeship scheme might
be run by Vosper Thornycroftby an employer rather than
by central Government?
Nick Edwards: The arm of Vosper
Thornycroft that runs apprenticeships is its education arm. It
is a managing agent, a training provider like we are, although
we are funded centrally. Vosper Thornycroft is very successful
in delivering apprenticeships. It delivers them totally in the
workplace and they are aligned to its own main contracts, because
it is one of the biggest naval engineering employers in the country
and trains up all the Navy's engineers and so on. It is successful,
and I do not think that it is a matter of either/or. Some programmes
can be delivered exclusively in the workplace, but in others the
employer will need a college or private training provider to assist
it in delivering the programme. A lot of employers would find
it really challenging to deliver the technical certificate themselves.
Vosper Thornycroft can do it, but a lot of employers would find
that challenging and would need the assistance of another training
organisation to do it with them. All employers can deliver the
competences in the workplace, as long as they understand their
responsibility to have a training manager or training co-ordinator
in the workplace. That is another issue for employersthey
see that as another responsibility. Under the apprenticeship agreement,
they have a responsibility to put the opportunities of the competences
in front of the learner. Sometimes employers will say, "Actually,
I can't organise that, I can't co-ordinate that. If I do take
someone off work to do that, it's going to be a cost to me,"
and so on. Those are challenges for employers. Sometimes colleges
and training providers can step in and help them with that.
Q27 Mr. Carswell: The success
of apprenticeships is surely not purely the statistics on the
number of apprentices produced but, in a sense, their desirability
to the labour market and to future employers. Our documents state:
"The Association of Learning Providers say that very few
employers directly recruit apprentices". If the scheme were
run differently, by employers, might that not change? Might it
not, almost by definition, become more successful?
Nick Edwards: What I understand
by that statement by the ALP is that we have a lot of employers
for whom having apprentices is part of their business plan. They
become plumbers' mates or young trainees in an organisation and
can add value to the employer by undertaking tasks. When they
complete their apprenticeship, the employer does not have a commitment
to offering that person a full-time job. That is quite positive,
actually, because if they did, they would block the route for
the next apprentice coming through. They look to move that apprentice
on to apply for a job and get employment in the sector. What I
can say is that all the apprentices at our college who complete,
who have been on a training programme with an employer, get work.
They secure employment. The product is good, and when employers
know that someone has completed an apprenticeship, they know exactly
what that person has done and what skills they have, and that
they are very employable. Actually, the idea that employers hold
apprentices for their lifetime is wrong. They enable them to move
on and form a vacancy for the next cohort of apprentices coming
to an employer.
Simon Bartley: If I may elaborate
on that, I used to run an electrical contracting business. We
used to take on a dozen apprentices a year. At the end of the
three and a half years, assuming we were down to 10 of those 12,
we would probably want to keep six of those 10 to be our electricians.
For four of those who had done our apprenticeship, we would have
felt that we had done our job. They were not particularly goodthey
achieved the grade, but we did not think of them as future foreman
material or whatever, and we wanted them to go. They always wanted
to stay, by the way, but we tended to want them to go. Of the
remaining six, we wanted to keep all of them but half of them
would have decided to go off and do something else. That might
have been to set up their own business, go and work with their
uncle who put them into the apprenticeship in the first place
or whatever. We would probably end up keeping three of the original
12, and they would carry on working with us and become our job
runners, our foremen, our engineers of the future. If all 10 had
stayed, or even all six whom we had wanted to stay, we would have
had the capacity for enormous growth from a human resources point
of view, but we would not actually have had the capacity for the
organisation to grow at that pace in order for that to happen.
What Nick said is borne out by reality in the workplace.
Q28 Mr. Carswell: Just to
finish off, I am curious about UK Skills. Could you elaborate
on its status? Where do you get your money from?
Simon Bartley: UK Skills gets
about 80% of its money from either central Government or Government
agencies such as learning and skills councils, and 20% from sponsorship
either from voluntary or private organisations.
Q29 Mr. Carswell: What is
Simon Bartley: We are a completely
independent company. We are not a Non-Departmental Public Body
(NDPB). We are an organisation set up to champion vocational education,
which we do through competitions and award systems. We are in
the middle of the national training awards, which we perform,
organise and arrange on behalf of the Secretary of State; they
are paid for by the Department for Innovation, Universities and
Skills. The skills competitions that we run within the United
Kingdom pull together Euro Skills Team UK and WorldSkills UK.
Some of the funding for the local competitions comes from the
Government and some of it comes from Edge, which sponsors Team
UK and Squad UK for Calgary and London. In 2011, UK Skills will
host the WorldSkills competition at ExCel. More than 50% of the
money for that will come from the private or grant-making sectors,
and the other half will come from the Government.
Andy Powell: As you know, apprenticeships
are not run by Government; the learning frameworks are decided
by employers through various associations and so forth. The employer
employs the apprentice and, with different training providers,
ensures that they get the learning. I would like to add one important
thing about the role of the state. If there is one thing that
I would keep an eye on, it would be targets. In other words, if
we are all to live happily ever afterif you agree that
far more people get great training and employers want them and
all the rest of itthis is about public relations, brand
promotion, equality and encouraging people to do it with certain
stimuli. That is in direct tension with a target-driven mentality.
If things are too driven by targets that say, for instance, that
we must have 190,000 completions and so forth, you will inevitably
see a new form or declining quality of apprenticeship. They should
be driven by quality and the brand on a voluntary basis.
Q30 Mr. Pelling: Very briefly,
this is about trying to rebuild after the devastation of apprenticeships
in the 1980s. What can be done in the Bill to ensure that the
process is simple enough so that employers can tap into apprenticeships?
The great frustration that is always expressed by employers is
that they have a tremendous skills shortage in X or Y, but that
it is not catered for and it is not understood by Government that
there is a particular skills shortage. How can it be kept simple
so that employers can take best advantage of what the Government
are trying to do?
Nick Edwards: I support what Andrew
just said, and what Fiona Mactaggart said earlier. The idea of
the group apprenticeship is a positive one, because it does the
heavy lifting for the small employer. It sorts out all the personnel
issues and takes responsibility for managing the learner in terms
of them getting their completion. The complexity of the responsibilities
involved in the apprenticeship programme, which the current apprenticeship
agreement places on small and medium-sized enterprises, puts off
many employers. A group apprenticeship system would take on those
responsibilities for small and medium-sized employers and would
give them confidence. They would be hiring someone. They understand
about hiring staff, which is what they would be doing. They would
hire an apprentice and other people would take responsibility
for the heavy lifting.
Simon Bartley: Keep it simple.
Chairman: I have to say that, as someone
who has visited the VT apprenticeship scheme and met the apprentices
in Portsmouth, VT does not like being called by its old name.
However, it runs a very good apprenticeship programme. I want
to move on to look specifically at 16 to 18 apprenticeships.
Q31 Mr. Heppell: In some respects,
the talk about apprenticeships is driven by the Government's wish
for people to participate in education or training up to the age
of 18. In the report, the Secretary of State says, "In the
coming years, we want apprenticeships to be seen alongside university
as a great option for young people." Is there that demand
from young people? You have said before that this should not be
driven by targets. What evidence do we have of the demand for
apprenticeships from young people? Can that be quantified? How
many people could you get into apprenticeships if the resources
were there? I find this difficult because there is a lot of doubt
about the figures on who would want to be an apprentice and who
Nick Edwards: We have a much greater
demand for apprenticeships than we can supply. The problem is
being able to offer employed places. There was concern that the
money allocated to apprenticeships in London last year was vastly
Chairman: Could you repeat that?
Nick Edwards: The money that was
allocated for apprenticeship programmes in London by the Learning
and Skills Council last year was vastly underspent. That was not
because young people did not want to do them or because training
providers did not want to provide them, but because they could
not find the employed places. On whether young people want to
do apprenticeships, the apprenticeship is a clear product. Parents
understand that if you go to university, you get a degree. They
also understand an apprenticeship. It is different with sectors
such as NVQs, City and Guilds qualifications and BTEC nationals.
The apprenticeship is a clear product that is aspirational for
families. People like to say that their son or daughter is on
an apprenticeship or that their son or daughter is going to university
to do a degree. It has that kind of aspiration and kudos for people.
The problem of getting the employed places for young people is
causing the blockage. There is demand from parents, young people
and the training providers that deliver apprenticeships.
Andy Powell: May I come in? I
am sure that I will have to correct the figures when the transcript
comes. There are three points. First, there was a pilot in Hampshire
with a new matching scheme. That is the only place that I know
of where the figures were taken for a while in a geographical
area. Something like 25,000 young people wanted to do an apprenticeship
and asked for a placement and there were only 6,000 or 9,000 places.
A significant number of young people wanted apprenticeships compared
with the number of places. The other area for which we have data
is for big companies, although that is a little artificial. It
is harder to get an apprenticeship with some of the big, well-known
firmsBT, for examplethan to get into Oxbridge. There
are data that show this. Secondly, looking at it the other way
round, there is strong evidence that shows in all sorts of ways
that young people are looking for something other than straight
classroom learning and are disillusioned with learning. That leads
to my third pointwhich I would like to make stronglyabout
young apprenticeships. Young apprenticeships are for 14 to 16-year-olds
and have been running for four years. The apprentices go to work
or to training providers for two days a week and there is a requirement
of 50 days in work. I have been speaking to a lot of young apprentices
recently and there was also a recent Ofsted inspection. There
is no question but that the young people in the Ofsted report
and the ones that I spoke to in Barnsley last Friday find it enormously
helpful. They are motivated by it. Importantly, in their words,
they are treated with respect and they grow in maturity. They
also think that the apprenticeships help them when they go back
to school to do their GCSEs at the same time. It would be good
if you could consider whether all young people should have an
entitlement to do a young apprenticeship under the Bill. I spoke
to people who had been to five different companies as part of
their experience. Young apprentices also learn what they do not
want to do, which is important. They may find that baking is not
for them, when they had thought that it was. The more that employers
get involved in education, the more the demand from employers
will increase. The employers I spoke to loved it. If they get
an experience of school it will lead to a demand for full apprenticeships
Simon Bartley: May I just add
to that? There is a national training provider in the electrical
and plumbing industry called JTL. It does not like being called
by its full original name either. It would be able to give you
the exact figures which would be somewhere in this order: of every
100 people who express an interest in becoming an electrician,
about 50 would drop by the wayside by not completing the application
process. Of the remaining 50, only 20 would pass the carefully
designed test to see whether they would be capable of doing the
technical certificate and progressing to Level 3. They would not
start on an apprenticeship with the idea of failing, but of those
20, only one or two would be offered places by employers. JTL
could give you the exact figures, and ConstructionSkills has done
a piece of work relatively recently that looked at the numbers
of people who were applying to do an apprenticeship. There is
a difference between an apprenticeship and an advanced apprenticeship
in the construction industry and the number of places available.
So there are some statistics and they vary across regions and
industries, but I think all three of us would agree that many
young people would express an interest in doing an apprenticeship
but they might not all be capable of doing it. Notwithstanding
that, the shortage is of employers taking them on. Understanding
that is probably part of the way to resolve the problem that we
have over take-up.
Q32 Mr. Heppell: Specifically
on the skills bit, I see that it is said that there should not
be any minimum requirements because there are not enough people
with the qualifications needed at that stage. I worry that a large
group in society, who will not have the necessary qualifications
at the specific time when they want to become an apprentice, will
get frozen out of the system. They are the very people whom it
is difficult to get into meaningful employment and involved in
society in the first place. Are you sure that the idea of minimum
qualifications is right?
Simon Bartley: In the electrical
industry the only reason for having a minimum qualification is
because the timing, the funding and the facilities of employers
and colleges to teach people who are unable to read and write
after leaving school are just not there. As an employeras
I wasof electrical contractors, my requirements when taking
on apprentices over a three and a half year programme were pretty
low. I was talking about three GCSEs, one of which should be a
science and one of which would be maths. If they showed great
potential I might even waive that. But when I asked them what
12 divided by five was, and they could not do that at the age
of 16, I began to wonder how they would be able to do differential
equations as part of the requirements of voltage calculations
in an apprenticeship. So, we either have to change the quality
of the people coming in at the bottom, or we have to decide whether
we want electricians to be craftsmen or just better trained electrical
Nick Edwards: I would like young
people to be able to leave school at 14, but to come to college.
At the moment, 500 learners aged 14 to 16 come to us to study
for vocational qualifications for two days a week. But they have
to go back to school for the other three days. These are young
people who the schools know will not get five GCSEs A to C, which
is the gold ticket to get into the sixth form, which is the gold
ticket to go to university. These people have to wait and mark
time for two years until they can leave school at 16. A lot of
these young people would be better placed going into vocational
training much earlier and being able to go to colleges and begin
to get the skills to enable them to access apprenticeships much
earlier. A lot of the issues around school attendance arise from
young people no longer seeing the relevance of the programmes
they are on. It does work for a substantial majority of them,
but there is a substantial minority for whom schools cease to
work and have relevance. Those people should be able to make choices
about vocational careers and training at a much earlier age.
Q33 Chairman: Does the Bill
deliver that option, in your view?
Nick Edwards: No, it does not.
Q34 Chairman: So you would
like us to consider that?
Nick Edwards: It is an issue,
and it has beenit came out of Tomlinsonof when people
get connected with their vocation in the personal sense: their
vocation in terms of their skills and attitudes being mirrored
in a career opportunity, and of not having to wait till 16 or
to have failed something before they start something constructive.
That is the measure when they leave at 16what they have
not achieved, not what they have achievedfor that particular
cohort of young people: "You did not get five GCSEs A to
Q35 Mr. Heppell: Following
on from that, the draft Bill says that those who want an apprenticeship
must register for two sectors. I am an ex-apprentice. At one stage
in my career, I had to choosewell, it was not just me;
I was supposed to make a choice, but they decided in the endwhether
I would do mechanical or electrical. I can sort of understand
that, but the idea of picking two sectorssaying, "Okay,
I might end up an engineer or a cook"seems strange.
Does that seem sensible to you?
Nick Edwards: No. The groundwork
should be done before. People should have introductory experience
in different vocational pathways so that they can make realistic
choices about where their skills, aptitude and motivation are,
not try it out on an apprenticeship. If you are saying one or
Q36 Chairman: But you can
see the rationale. As you have been talking, I have been thinking.
I am keen that the public sectorhealth, education and local
authorities, which are the biggest employers in most placesshould
have apprenticeships. I know of areas less diverse than mine or
Fiona's where the choice of apprenticeships is limited. There
might not be options. If someone says that they only want to be
an engineering apprentice, that may not be deliverable in a considerable
area. Are not the two choices aimed at doing something about that?
Simon Bartley: I think that you
choose a great example to illustrate your point: engineering or
being a cook. If the two sectors are construction or the built
environment, there is not a problem. I suspect that in some of
Barry's cases it is likewise. I have a bigger problem with an
issue that comes up under the two sectors: if a young person will
identify two sectors, and the NAS will find an employer in order
to get them an apprenticeship within one of those two sectors,
where is the demand drive by employers to ensure that that happens?
It will also happen within a geographical area. Take the north-west.
I do not know whether any of you are from the north-west; my apologies.
In the north-west, if the two sectors that a young person is interested
in are construction and the built environment and the sector skills
councils for construction and the built environment identify that
there is no requirement for further plumbers, electricians, bricklayers
or scaffolders in those two sectors, how on earth can the NAS
be mandated to find a job within the geographical travelling distance
of a 19-year-old person? The sector approach, including what Nick
has said, is an interesting one, but it brings a whole host of
problems which might be about flooding local markets with individuals
such as Fiona mentioned, who indicated to her that there were
no jobs for them at the end of the apprenticeship. We could get
back to Lord Tebbit's "On your bike" if we wanted to
extend the conversation.
Andy Powell: As soon as you have
entitlement, you have very real challenges and compromises to
make. One sector or two sectors, it is linked to what I think
the Bill says is a reasonable travel time. What is reasonable
if someone lives in a rural area and wants to do certain apprenticeships,
and that is their passion? It might be 50 miles. Is that reasonable
or not? Those are all very real challenges in the Bill. You are
saying that every young person is entitled to something that can
only come if employers want them.
Q37 Mr. Heppell: I have one
final question. I probably take a very different view with regard
to the public sector than Douglas does. You have seen that a theme
runs through his questions which is very much a case of, "What
the hell have we got a Government for, as we do not even need
one?" When I was an apprentice, nationalised industries and
the big companies did the apprenticeships. Smaller companies probably
also did apprenticeships, but if my memory serves me correctly,
people tended to migrate from those big companies and the nationalised
industries to fill the jobs in industry. The way I read it, the
nationalised companies provided the training and skills for the
rest of the country so that the UK benefited in the end. Some
of the big companies still run apprenticeship schemes, although
not as many as there were. With privatisation, there has been
a drain on that and we are trying to rebuild apprenticeships in
some respect. If you are not talking about targets, what can you
do to ensure that more apprenticeships are available through the
public sector so that they can feed out and help the private sector?
Andy Powell: As well as targets,
it is like anything else: you make them so damned good that people
want them. That includes high quality and sophisticated promotion
and communication so that people really understand what apprenticeships
are and what the potential is, because they currently do not.
That is very important, and we do not do enough of it. At the
end of the day, you have to work and make it so good that young
people and their parents really want them to do an apprenticeship,
and we should remember that in the public sector that can be anything
from hairdressing to social care or horticulture. On the side
of the employers, I recently saw an employer get up and speak
at one of our events for getting businesses more involved in schools
and say that he used to spend £100,000 a year on recruitment
but now spends nothing because he has apprentices and works with
local schools and colleges and all the people want to come to
Nick Edwards: I think that there
is an opportunity in that respect, which the Bill hints at, whereby
organisations rather than sectors can develop apprenticeships,
so that the sector skills councils will not necessarily develop
all of the apprenticeships. Where local authorities can develop
their own apprenticeship schemes that are relevant to their local
needs and businesses, I think that you could get growth in the
private sector. The John Lewis training scheme is as good as any
retail apprenticeship scheme and so should become such a scheme.
When Marks and Spencer can deliver its training programme as an
apprenticeship you will begin to have growth in apprenticeships.
The Bill hints that organisations will have the opportunity to
develop their own apprenticeship schemes that are local to their
business and local to their environment, and that is a real opportunity.
Q38 Chairman: Simon, I am
surprised that you have not mentioned the guild system, because
you are a lightmonger, are you not?
Simon Bartley: I am.
Chairman: People used to have to pay
an employer to become an apprentice, and that was for seven years.
Q39 Mr. Carswell: Those guilds
were early trade unions, were they not?
Simon Bartley: They are also restricted
practices, so thank you, Barry, for bringing that up.
1 Note by witness: The correct figures compiled
from feedback from the piloted Apprenticeships Matching Service
returned numbers of 17,000 young people wanted to do an apprenticeship
but there were only 6,000 places. (House of Lords, Apprenticeship:
Recent Developments, Third Report of the Economic Affairs
Committee, Session 2007-08, HL Paper 137, Q9) Back