Memorandum submitted by the British Chambers
1.1 The British Chambers of Commerce is
the national body for a powerful and influential Network of Accredited
Chambers of Commerce across the UK; a Network that directly serves
not only its member businesses but the wider business community.
1.2 Representing over 100,000 businesses
and five million employees, the British Chambers of Commerce is
The Ultimate Business Network. Every Chamber sits at the very
heart of its local business community working with businesses
to grow and develop individuals, businesses, communitiesand
ultimately, the nation's economyby sharing opportunities,
knowledge and know-how.
1.3 No other business organisation makes
such a difference to business as the British Chambers of Commerce.
The British Chambers of Commerce
is supportive of any planned increase in the number of apprenticeships
undertaken. We believe that providing a statutory basis for apprenticeships
is a positive step forward, and will help to make then a mainstream
option in 14-19 education.
Apprenticeships must be employer
led and focused on business needs, while also containing an element
of accredited training that will allow progression for the apprentice.
Elements of apprenticeships must tie in with other qualifications
to make the system cohesive and understandable.
Clear and impartial information,
advice and guidance is also needed in schools and college to help
young people make appropriate decisions about their futures.
The National Apprenticeship Service
must be regionally rooted, within existing organisations and be
as light-touch as possible, otherwise it will just serve as a
disincentive for employers. Equally quality assurance must also
Apprenticeships should be firmly
rooted within the qualifications frameworks, and have clear routes
of progression into higher qualifications as well as within employment.
2.1 The British Chambers of Commerce supports
the proposal that apprenticeships should be a mainstream educational
option for young people. Likewise, we support the premise that
a greater number of apprenticeships places should be created.
While the Diplomas will introduce a much needed element of work
skills into the classroom, many young people will benefit from
the offer of apprenticeships as a wholly vocational pathway based
with an employer rather than in a programme.
A STATUTORY BASIS
3.1 The BCC recognises that providing a
statutory framework for apprenticeships will mean that they are
more likely to become a mainstream option in the way that A-Levels,
GCSEs and Diplomas are today. However, there is also concern over
a number of issues regarding the nature of a statutory framework.
3.2 The statutory basis for apprenticeships
must not result in increased bureaucracy. Too much paperwork has
been cited as a reason why many employers have been apprehensive
about taking on apprentices. If this issue is not addressed, it
will derail the government's plans, as businesses will be unwilling
to engage with the system. The Secretary of State for Universities,
Innovation and Skills has promised that he would look into the
reduction of the bureaucracy associated apprenticeships. We look
forward to seeing action is this area.
3.3 Employers must have of freedom in deciding
what apprentices they need and the types of skills that their
apprentices should develop beyond the functional and generic learning
of apprenticeship programmes. Taking on apprentices will, and
should ultimately always be a business decision dictated by the
individual needs of that business.
3.4 The BCC supports of the introduction
of certification for apprenticeships. Certification will help
to give apprenticeships a similar status to other mainstream qualifications,
and also facilitate progression routes of apprentices once their
study is completed.
4.1 The broad outline for apprenticeship
blueprints outlined in the draft Bill is the correct one, but
should be as light-touch and bureaucracy free as possible otherwise
business will not want to take on apprentices.
4.2 Businesses believe that all apprenticeships
should be essentially employer led, with programme based training
elements that occupy no more than one to two days per week of
the apprentices time depending on the apprenticeship and stage
of study. The BCC does not believe that programme led vocational
courses can be considered to be apprenticeships. Such courses
often feature training grouped together in a single block and
no direct relationship with an employer sourced from the outset.
Such programmes only serve to weaken the apprenticeship brand
and give young people a less practical learning experience compared
to employer led apprenticeships. Being attached to an employer
is essential for the apprentice's interpersonal skills, personal
management skills and wider functional skills to develop, as well
as to help them put theory into practice.
5.1 We believe that apprenticeships should
be placed within the wider qualifications structure from the outset.
This is important because it will give them a better status when
placed alongside other qualifications than they currently have.
This will also aid in progression to further and higher education,
as well as within employment. The planned introduction of a National
Qualifications Framework will be of great benefit to employers
and will help to strengthen apprenticeships. The core elements
of apprenticeships, Diplomas and the functional skills that are
to be part of the general route (GCSEs and A-Levels) should be
related and interchangeable, as this will add coherence and cohesion
to the system.
5.2 The relationship between apprenticeships
and Diplomas is clearly an important one. Diplomas are designed
as a bridge between academic and vocational learning, and we conceive
that many students who undertake the Diploma will progress onto
apprenticeships. Relevant parts of the Diploma should be co-ordinated
with the programme elements of apprenticeships to ensure that
the relationship between the two qualifications is as complementary
5.3 Mutual weight to credit within elements
of each qualification should be ensured also, as this would mean
that students would find it easier to transfer between the two
streams if they found one unsuitable. This would help counter
the problem of young people between 18 and 19 years of age who
are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Many people
in this age group who find themselves NEET do so because they
have dropped out a course they have found unsuitable, but have
been unable to start another course or programme immediately.
If the qualifications marry up effectively, it would reduce this
group by aiding transferability.
5.4 There must also be clear progression
routes for certain apprenticeships up through the qualifications
ladder. For example, certain engineering apprentices will wish
to gain Level 4 qualifications (Bachelor degrees). This will help
to increase the image of apprenticeships and will encourage more
young people to undertake them.
5.5 In apprenticeship frameworks, it is
likely that NVQs will make up the part of the programme element.
The quality of NVQs must also be analysed and be addressed where
it is found wanting. NVQs must also be placed into smaller units
so that employers can create programme elements that are most
suited to their businesses needs.
6.1 For apprenticeships to become a mainstream
option, young people need to be given effective and impartial
information, advice and guidance. Schools and colleges must be
able to promote apprenticeships to young people and their parents
as a realistic and valuable option for certain learners. Without
this support from the educational establishment, the government
will be unable to increase the number of young people undertaking
6.2 The government should ensure that it
uses its existing organisations, such as Connexions to distribute
information on apprenticeships. Experience of organisations such
as Connexions greatly varies across the country and efforts should
be made to ensure that quality is more uniform.
6.3 Any money distributed to schools should
be ring-fenced or administered externally through existing agencies.
We also do not believe that information, advice and guidance is
effective when administered internally in schools and colleges
as teachers have a tendency to encourage young people to stay
on academic routes rather than equally valuable vocational ones.
British society currently has a natural prejudice against vocational
routes, which encourages teachers to only push the less academically
inclined down vocational routes when in reality some apprenticeships,
such as those in high-tech engineering firms are equally as challenging
as applied academic routes, and require highly able young people.
6.4 Evidence suggests that this problem
is exacerbated in with school sixth forms. As schools and colleges
get money per student, year 12+ students are a very valuable commodity
and schools do not want to run the risk of losing good students
to courses they do not run. Vocational courses are only promoted
to those who are not wanted back in 6th form hence the social
image of these courses is very low. This must be addressed.
6.5 More information should be provided
to schools at an earlier stage. Schools should be encouraged to
identify champions for apprenticeships among the staff and pupils,
and bring back pupils who have been successful as apprentices
to speak to youngsters and show that apprenticeships are a viable
7.1 The BCC believed that the reforms outlined
by Raising Expectations were an unnecessary part of a long
history of organisational change in Further Education by the Labour
government. Despite its faults, a slimmed down and less bureaucratic
LSC would have been the natural home for national co-ordination
7.2 While we appreciate that knowledge about
apprenticeships opportunities would be increased with a national
service, businesses are also worried about yet another bureaucratic
agency, which instead of making it easier for businesses to find
an apprentice actually complicates matters. Steps must be taken
to ensure that the service is as light touch as possible, and
that it is integrated into an existing agency to avoid costly
creation and set up costs.
7.3 The design of the NAS must recognise
the needs of regional businesses, and must be firmly rooted locally.
7.4 The creation of a National Apprenticeship
Service must also take into account the existing strong relationships
between businesses and training providers. There is serious potential
for existing productive relationships to be irreparably damaged.
8.1 Ensuring that the quality of apprenticeships
is maintained is important to businesses. If quality is not maintained,
the government's attempts to increase the number of young people
undertaking apprenticeships will be unsuccessful in the medium
to long term, as firms will not get the skills they want from
apprenticeships, and young people will not want to undertake courses
which have little prospect of progression.
8.2 It is important that the external programme
element of apprenticeships is examined, as this will give the
apprentice clearer progression routes into promotion, further
employment, or higher qualifications. The basis of this should
be the NVQ system.
8.3 SMEs would find an over burdensome inspection
regime a disincentive to take on apprentices, although would want
the quality of training providers that they use to be of assured
high quality. Ensuring the quality of apprenticeships in what
is essentially a target driven culture is a challenge. There needs
to be an independent assessment on the quality of apprenticeships
preferably by industry experts. Any quality assurance and inspection
of the work-based elements of apprenticeships needs to come from
an impartial source which is in touch with the needs of the industry.
8.4 Part of ensuring quality is through
the provision of support for companies who take on apprenticeships.
While large companies have the resource to manage a complex apprenticeship
programme, smaller firms below 50, usually without HR or training
specialists will require further help to run high quality apprenticeships.
Any help given should focus on support rather than inspection
9.1 It is clear that for the government
to meet its target to increase the number of young people undertaking
apprenticeships, more employers must be encouraged to take apprentices
on. Government needs to increase awareness of the advantages of
apprenticeships among SMEs, while business has to be convinced
that the apprenticeship programme is robust and flexible enough
to meet its requirements. Business will be encouraged if they
believe that apprenticeship schemes are employer led and industry
focused, and meet the needs of businesses, industry and the young
9.2 Businesses, especially SMEs, will require
financial incentives and support for taking on apprenticeships.
When creating an apprenticeship programme, employers are making
an investment in a young person from whom they will not see a
return on until year two or three of a programme. In light of
this, additional financial support in the first year of training
could encourage businesses to take on more apprentices. This is
especially the case for SMEs, for whom taking on apprenticeships
is a large resource investment in terms of both time and money.