Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
8 OCTOBER 2008
Q40 Chairman: Do you anticipate
a large number of banking apprenticeships imminently?
Simon Bartley: That was a point
that I was going to make, as we should not forget that some of
the City of London guilds are still the examination boards for
qualifications. The spectacle makers is one such guild, but there
are others that do superb training. Most of them train in smallish
numbers and cannot get any Government money because of the bureaucracy
involved. With regard to the public sector, I would like to mention
two areas. There is a bit of the public sector called the armed
services, which are really good at training apprentices. If you
go to the Army engineers at Chatham or to the Navy, you will see
that over the past 10 years or so the military training has been
interfaced with technical training and has an output in the private
or non-military sector when individuals leave the services, and
that offers an example. The Army did it because it was embarrassed
by the fact that one in five people sleeping rough on the streets
of London tonight used to be in the Army: they went in with nothing
and came out with nothing. The civil service, both centrally and
locally, could pick up some ideas from that example. If you can
train an apprentice as an electrician in the Army, in the current
circumstances, perhaps we can learn from some other departments
that are not included here.
Very briefly, we talk about young people
as apprentices or non-apprentices, but lots of them went into
training that was not an apprenticeship or a degree. That has
changed. Two examples are nurses and teachers. In the very recent
past, both nurses and teachers tended to get qualified by training
schemes in hospitals, which were not necessarily tied in to getting
a degree at university. In both cases, lessons can be learned.
When we talk about IAGI have said this before in Barry's
hearingI wonder whether every teacher who gives IAG has
a degree but not an NVQ.
Chairman: We have to give David a chance
to come in now.
Q41 Mr. Chaytor: May I pursue
the point that John raised about the economic changes? To what
extent will the attempt to revive a national apprenticeship system
run up against the rocks of the nature of the changes to the economy
over the past 25 years and beyond? There is a world of difference
between an economy that was dominated by large employers, traditional
manufacturing industries and a strong public nationalised industry
sector, which, in reality, took on most of the apprenticeships
when we had a viable system between them in the post-war period,
and today's economy which isor was until a couple of days
agodominated by financial services, retail and, until recently,
housing and construction and personal services. I cannot see a
cat in hell's chance of fully establishing an apprenticeship system
if we assume the main providers of apprenticeships will be the
small businesses that dominate today's economy. Simon, you gave
an example earlier of the construction industry. The typical small
business involved in plumbing, electrics or construction is operating
on a pretty hand-to-mouth basis. Companies form and decline. Migrant
labour comes in and takes some of the work. The whole structure
is so much more deregulated now. How can small businesses plan
and afford to take on apprentices when there is not the economic
stability and certainty that there was in 1950s Britain? I suppose
that that is the nub of my question.
Chairman: Andy, you start.
Andy Powell: Yes is the answer.
That is why apprenticeships have to change. There have been changes
not only in the nature of the industry sector but elsewhere. A
while back, people had a job for life. Therefore, going back to
Douglas Carswell's point, it was much more understandable for
employers to voluntarily take on people because they would be
there for life. When we are all expecting at least seven different
occupations, let alone jobs, in life, you have to do things differently.
At the end of the day, this is about a form of learning which
always has been and always will be one of the most powerful ways
of learning as it comes from experts and combines theory and practice.
Therefore, I would be optimistic, but we have to be innovative
and consider ways in which we can cope with the new system. Hence,
we have group apprenticeship schemes. In the public sector, one
of the employers that won an award for the work they did with
us was a school. They allow 10 young people who leave with not
ideal GCSEs to come back as apprentices. There are apprentices
in IT who sort out all the IT for the school and mentor young
people. However, that involves having things such as group apprenticeship
schemes and more flexibility in the apprenticeship framework while
maintaining quality and other such things.
Q42 Mr. Chaytor: Would it
not be preferable to establish in the legislation the group apprenticeship
model as the default position for small employers rather than
try to flog a dead horse in persuading thousands and thousands
of small employers who are operating on the margins to take on
apprenticeships? Would it not be better to say, "This is
not on, let us establish a group apprenticeship model to serve
the small business sector?"
Chairman: I am watching the time
Andy Powell: I do not know. I
would not be convinced by that, but I will pass it on to the plumber
where I live. He is a one-person outfit, he has an apprentice,
and he may take on another when the business expands. It is a
wonderful thing and he believes in it. It is always about choice,
making it easier, encouraging and providing support for people
to have these new ideas, but at the end of the day, the employer
should decide. Some of them will like that close bond, and it
is their future.
Simon Bartley: I will just pick
up on that point and then answer your query. I would like to think
about it. My gut feeling is to ensure that if it is the default,
it does not exclude an individual doing it themselves, as in Andy's
example. A lot of small businesses will train an apprentice, and
it will be the son or the daughter of the person who runs the
small business. Cut that out, and you lose 100,000 apprenticeships
instantly. In the last 25 years, in the electrical and building
services industry, most of the big companies, which were the old
electricity boards, were privatised and stopped training, as did
most of the big companies. Look at the top 10 electrical and mechanical
contractors in the country and they do not trainNG Bailey
is a fine example of bucking that trend. Small businesses have
never really trained in proportion to the number of them that
there are. Some have done it but the bulk never has. The real
core in my sector of apprentices has always been mid-sized family
businesses. I suspect that all of you know from your constituencies
that mid-sized family businesses are increasingly a thing of the
past. Fewer people pass on their business to their son or daughter;
they keep the money, play golf with it, invest it in their children's
houses. Whatever it is, mid-sized businesses are collapsing around
everything we do. If you do that, there is no reason that those
businesses will ever invest in training labour to help their son
or daughter in the next generation. We have a real other issue
along with the things that we have talked about. I go back to
procurement, self-employment and the death of mid-sized businesses
training, because it is easy to go to an agency and get an electrician
for two weeks. Finally, and this is not an anti-immigration comment,
it is much easier to find a Polish plumber to come and work with
you for three weeks because you have a blip on the number of houses
that you have to do, than it is to take on somebody for three
and a half years and train them. There is an issue there that
must be addressed if we talk about why people are not taking on
Nick Edwards: The point is a very
real one. There is a real challenge at the moment in the construction
industry where the majority of our apprenticeships lie. The major
construction companies do not take on apprenticeships. There is
an anecdote that only 14 apprentices were employed on Wembley
stadium because companies were on complete time penaltiesthey
were not going to carry people. You can either do it by coercion
with the large companies through public sector contracts requiring
people to take apprentices, or you do it through financial incentives
for the small companies. In the construction industry, most of
the apprenticeships at our place come from white van construction
businessthe small person who is building extensions, refurbishing
houses and so on. That is disappearing. The way people finance
such businesses is through remortgaging their houses. The remortgaging
business is going and instantly we have seen people stopping taking
on apprentices because they do not want to carry any extra load.
From my position of delivering apprenticeships, the college does
very well. We get paid very well to deliver apprenticeships and
the employer should also be reimbursed for their training part
of the apprenticeship programme. If they saw an impact on the
bottom line, they would walk towards it.
Q43 Chairman: You are a big
employer in Lewisham, how many apprentices do you and Ruth have?
Nick Edwards: Two hundred and
Q44 Chairman: That you employ
directly, you train?
Nick Edwards: Yes, we train.
Q45 Chairman: Is that typical
of an FE college?
Nick Edwards: In London it is,
but in the midlands and the north you will have colleges with
Q46 Chairman: This is a different
question. How many people do you train for your institution?
Nick Edwards: For our own institution
we have 32.
Chairman: Even that is quite extraordinary,
is it not? I hear what you say, but at least two of you have been
in meetings with me in the Skills Commission where Chris Humphries
will always say, "Don't get carried away by SMEs." However
much you love them, the real employers, the bulk employers are
still the big players. We are in danger of getting this out of
proportion. The big players in most of our constituencies are
the universities, local government, the health authorities. They
are the places where we have to look for apprenticeships, if they
are going to expand.
Q47 Mr. Chaytor: Your apprenticeships,
Nickthe 250are what are called programme-led apprenticeships?
Nick Edwards: They are people
who come to us to do the technical certificate. We contract with
them and they are in the workplace. They come as individuals,
they already have work and their employer is sending them to us
to do an apprenticeship programme.
Q48 Mr. Chaytor: Right, so
how is that different from a programme-led apprenticeship? Are
there still such things?
Nick Edwards: There are programme-led
apprenticeships and we also do those. We take young people and
give them the skills to make themselves useful in the workplace
before they go out into employment, because, actually, the employer
wants people who are partially skilled and who have industry knowledge
already. That is programme-led. There will be people who have
already secured employment within a particular vocational area,
and the employer will send them to us to get them up-skilled and
put them on an apprenticeship programme.
Q49 Mr. Chaytor: But in the
context of an economy that is facing a downturn, particularly
in construction, over the next two or three years certainly, do
you see the programme-led apprenticeship model as being more valuable?
Is that the only way that the numbers will be delivered?
Nick Edwards: No, because in the
end, although you can start off with a programme-led apprenticeship,
the individual has to get employment to get the apprenticeship.
Otherwise, you will end up with a bottleneck of disappointed people
and you will just convert them on to NVQ programmes. Yes, they
will have the qualification to work in the sector, but they will
have lost the aspiration that they had in coming for an apprenticeship,
and you will have disappointed them because you could not get
them employment. Our college is a large vocational college with
15,000 students. I send more people to university than I can give
apprenticeships to. At the moment, my numbers are capped by the
LSC, in terms of 16-18s and 19-plus, but the LSC will fund me
for every apprentice I can get. It is an open book, but we cannot
get the employers. The growth for FE and for training providers
is to grow the apprenticeships, because that is where the business
is. That is where the money is, so everyone is walking towards
it, but the challenge, as Simon and Andy are saying, is getting
the buy-in from employers.
Andy Powell: The programme-ledI
am not sure that I am happy with the phraseis something
to be careful about. I sense that at the moment there is a sort
of groundswell of received wisdom that these are awful, and I
think that you have to look at them carefully. Actually, you could
argue that programme-led is a well-established model. This is
what doctors and lawyers did: they did the theory, then the practice.
At the moment 14% of apprenticeships are programme-led, which
is not a huge amount. I am told that some of those are clearly
inappropriate, but they are not necessarily inappropriate, providing
that they lead to the workplace and employment. We should not
make blanket statements such as, "Oh, the programme-led are
rubbish," or whatever.
Q50 Mr. Chaytor: Two other
things. First, on the question of transferability, what is the
problem in making it easier to move between the diploma and the
apprenticeship? Why are not diplomas structured in such a way
that transferability to an apprenticeship is almost automatic?
Simon Bartley: I could give a
very long answer on that, but I will not. The two are not parallel
courses of learning. The diploma is really an academic qualification
that teaches maths, English, physics or whatever in an applied
manner. It does not actually teach people the skills required
to do a job. An apprenticeship, even the theoretical bit of it,
is all about teaching the theory to enable the person to do the
job. There will be items in a construction and built environment
diploma that would assist, but it is not of the same volume and
if a person on a diploma spends only two weeks in the workplace,
they do not pick up an enormous amount of practical skills. To
give somebody two weeks' worth of credit against an NVQ Level
2 apprenticeship or a Level 3 apprenticeship is so small as to
be meaningless in the accreditation of prior learning. When the
Government designed diplomas, the idea was that they should not
be pathways from a construction diploma into a construction job.
They should be a way of learning what you should learn at school,
using construction, which may be your interest, to develop your
interests and help you to learn. I suspect that, if you were to
ask me in five years' time whether that ambition was being fully
fulfilled, my answer would be no. I believe that those young people
who decide to do a construction and built environment diploma
are those with more of a predisposition to do an apprenticeship
in construction and built environment. However, we are two or
three weeks into it, so let us watch what is going on.
Nick Edwards: A diploma will give
a knowledge of industry, while an apprenticeship will give the
skills of industry.
Q51 Mr. Chaytor: That reinforces
the point that the two ought to be integrated. What is the purpose
Andy Powell: Top down, to many
young people whom I have met, including my son, a diplomathe
application of thingswould really turn them on and excite
them more than sitting reading books. My son is all right at that,
but he does not enjoy it. However, he is not in a position to
say that he will take an apprenticeship. He does not have a clue
what he wants to do nor does he have a love of a particular area.
That is fine. If he were to do a Level 2 diploma in, say, health
and social care, and said that he really liked it, it is important
to make provision in the Bill for him to go on to do an apprenticeship.
The reality is that he will have to go back and do a Level 2 apprenticeship,
but that is life. That is fine. It should be catered for, and
funded, because different things are involved. That is no different
for all of us in life. We must avoid the idea that learning is
just going one, two, three, four. All of us who want to learn
IT go back to Level 1.
Q52 Chairman: I know that
Simon has to go shortly and there is one question to which we
would like an answer. We must also give him a chance to comment
on careers education. I wish to reinforce what is being said about
transferability. I think that Nick Edwards spoke about the difficulty
of using Train to Gain money. Why cannot Train to Gain money be
used to encourage employers to take on apprenticeships?
Nick Edwards: Train to Gain will
fund only the NVQ. Initially, it was to fund the first Level 2
NVQ for a learner, but now the new flexibilities are saying that
people who already have Level 2 can study additional Level 2.
However, it funds only the NVQ. It will not fund the component
parts of the apprenticeship framework, which are the key skills
and the underpinning knowledge.
Q53 Chairman: So should the
Bill say something about that?
Nick Edwards: It should refer
to the fact that we have two initiatives for employers to train
in the workplace. One is Train to Gain, and one is apprenticeships.
They need to have a dialogue with each other because employers
will say that they have to do only the NVQ, not the key skills
or the underpinning knowledge, and that it is free. They would
ask why they had to do the apprenticeship when it would mean more
responsibilities for them and, post-19, they would have to co-fund
it, whereas under Train to Gain Level 2 would be free at 19-plus,
30-plus or 50-plus.
Chairman: That is a very important point.
Q54 Mr. Chaytor: On another
topic, the apprenticeship wage is less than the minimum wage.
Is that true? Is that an issue?
Nick Edwards: It can be.
Q55 Mr. Chaytor: Is it not
fixed? Are there fixed amounts? How does it work?
Simon Bartley: It is age dependent.
If you are a 17-year-old apprentice, your employer has only to
pay you a percentage of the minimum wage. I do not know the figures,
but they are publicly available.
Is it an issue? A lecturer at the London
School of Economics did some work on that for the Skills Commission.
Some people think that reducing the wage of an apprentice would
attract better people to participate in apprenticeships, and that
more employers would be prepared to take on apprentices. Others
think the absolute opposite and say that such a situation is disgraceful
and that an apprentice should be paid a working wagethe
minimum wage without a cut-offbecause that would encourage
better people to participate. My understanding of Hilary Steadman's
involvement is that there is a little bit of "the jury is
out" on that issue, but a review is ongoing in DIUS about
Andy Powell: A middle way is that
some would say they should start smaller but grow, as an encouragement
for the employer, to check out the employee and for retention.
Simon Bartley: We used to lose
some three-year apprentices because we paid them only 90%. of
the electricians' wages. It was above the minimum wage, but they
knew that they could go off and get another 10%. and no one would
ask them for their NVQ. That is a lack of licence to practise
argument, but, in general, it is quite good to have a step up
so that people stay in training for completion. It is a complicated
Q56 Mr. Chaytor: On other financial
support for the employer, Nick, you said earlier that you felt
that colleges were paid quite adequately by the LSC for apprenticeships.
What is the standard payment to colleges and to employers?
Nick Edwards: You want to know
what I get for delivery?
Q57 Mr. Chaytor: Is it a secret?
Is there not a standard rate offered by the LSC?
Nick Edwards: There is, but it
depends on the apprenticeship and on how much of the framework
that I deliverif I deliver key skills and a technical certificate,
or just a technical certificate, and so on. I can get about £3,000
for a learner for a year.
Q58 Mr. Chaytor: How does
that compare with an employer who takes on an apprentice? Does
the employer receive anything at all?
Nick Edwards: He's not getting
anywhere close to that.
Q59 Chairman: Hang on. He's
not getting anythingnothing. You said, "He's not getting
anywhere close to that."
Nick Edwards: That is right.
Simon Bartley: An employer will
be given money by the LSC to take on an apprentice. That money
will cover the whole college expenditure if I, as an employer,
have to send an apprentice to college or pay the college fees
for the technical certificate and key skills, for examination
fees and such like, and for some monitoring of the NVQ logbook
and evidence. It does not pay any contribution to the apprentice's
wages, so, over three and a half years, you can imagine that it
makes the rest of the money pale into insignificance. That is
the bit that employers do not get.
Chairman: We have to do a bit on careers.