UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1082-i
HOUSE OF COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE THE
CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE
DRAFT APPRENTICESHIPS BILL
SIMON BARTLEY, NICK EDWARDS and
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 1 - 65
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Taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee
on Wednesday 8 October 2008
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Chairman)
Mr. Douglas Carswell
Mr. David Chaytor
Mr. John Heppell
Mr. Andrew Pelling
Examination of Witnesses
Bartley, Chief Executive,
UK Skills, Nick Edwards, Vice-Principal, Learning
and Skills, Lewisham
College, and Andy Powell, Chief Executive, Edge
Foundation, gave evidence.
Q1 Chairman: I welcome our
three witnesses to our deliberations.
We are conducting part of a
pre-legislative inquiry into the draft Apprenticeships Bill. As everyone knows, this is part of a
pre-legislative inquiry across the two Departments. The majority of it, in territory terms, is a
Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills responsibility, so I suspect
that the lead role has been with DIUS, but we are certainly taking our part
seriously, particularly in the areas of 16-to-18 apprenticeships and their
career implications. That is what this
sitting is about.
Simon, what was your reaction when you
heard about the Bill? We have had
apprenticeships in this country for a long time. They chunter along pretty well, and have
increased substantially over the past nine or 10 years. Why do we need the Bill?
Thank you very much. My first impression
when I heard about the Bill was a positive one.
I felt that it was more evidence that apprenticeships and vocational
education were at the top of the agenda, or rising to the top of the
agenda. So I welcomed it, and carried on
welcoming it thereafter. You are right:
it is rather nice that somebody has given some credit that apprenticeships have
been around for 400 years, and if I put my sector skills council hat on,
covering plumbing, I think that they go back to Roman times, if not before. So it is rather nice to hear that
apprenticeships have a long life and are worthwhile continuing.
The problem that we have had with
apprenticeships in the areas that I have been involved in has been the
reluctance of employers to place all their apprentice eggs in the one basket of
16-year-old school leavers. We have been
working on persuading the Government to have adult apprentices, so I saw this
as a move in the right direction, towards widening the franchise of
apprenticeships, so that employers in particular could get more of what they
wanted, from different places, rather than from where they were being told was
the only place to get it.
Q2 Chairman: Andy Powell, is
there anything that you would like to say to the Committee?
Briefly, I have a strong belief that apprenticeships and that form of learning
and development for young people are a good thing. The aspiration that we
should, over the next 10 years, build that up to 20% of young people doing them
seems absolutely sensible. Therefore, a
Bill that strengthens that is, I think, not a bad thing. The challenge of the Bill for me is that the
key things lie around it. So the advice
and guidance given to young people are important, but so are what leads up to
an apprenticeship and where people go on from being an apprentice. In those sort of areas, I have some
suggestions of where the Bill is more difficult to support, but I am in support
of the concept.
Q3 Chairman: What is the
view from your vantage point in the FE sector, Nick?
We welcomed the Bill coming forward. We
understood that there was a commitment from the Government towards
apprenticeships, but the Bill begins to give some actual leverage to delivering
those apprenticeships. It will give some
momentum. It also assigns responsibilities,
which I think is very important to deliver the targets that the Government
Q4 Chairman: How many
apprenticeships are there at the moment, Simon?
One hundred and eighty thousand a year, I think.
Q5 Chairman: That is a
substantial increase, is it not?
It is a substantial increase, over the last three or four years, from 60,000 or
70,000. The actual figures are at the
beginning of the Bill, I think, in the foreword: 180,000 in 2006-07, up from
65,000 in 1996-so an increase over 10 years.
I think that the important thing in
the foreword is the number of completions.
There is a real issue about the non-completion of apprenticeships. In some sectors-such as plumbing, or
electrical contracting or wiring-partially qualified individuals entering the
labour market, who may be two years through a three-and-a-half-year
apprenticeship, are actually a risk to themselves and to the customers they are
working for. Also, by their very
dropping out of apprenticeships and not completing, they make employers less
likely to want to take on another apprentice.
If you are small employer and you take on one apprentice a year, and one
in two of them does not finish, eventually you are going to think, "Why do I
put all my effort into this training?"
The important thing is the completion figure-up from 40,000 to 112,000,
broadly in proportion with what happens elsewhere.
The Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network
worked on some of the earlier figures and the earlier papers and Bills that
have gone through Parliament, and with the target of 400,000 that came out in
Leitch for England-500,000, I think, for the whole of the United Kingdom-which
is, or was until very recently, a realistic target for apprenticeships and
something to be welcomed. The work in
this Bill of having older individuals-16, 17, 18, perhaps 19-year-olds-starting
apprenticeships with a guarantee helps achieve that target, which I think is a
Q6 Chairman: I do not know
whether a lot of people have a memory of what an apprenticeship looked
like. What does the apprenticeship look
like today? Bring the Committee up to
date. How long is an apprenticeship, for
That is a long question, which could take the whole of our time.
Briefly, there are apprenticeships to level 2 and to level 3, so the
difference in timing for each of those is considerable. In different sectors, of course, they tend to
be different, depending on the framework.
I can build on the ones in electrical contracting, which I know. In the production of an electrician, there is
no level 2 apprenticeship, because there is no job there for someone in the
electrical industry. The electrical
industry wants fully qualified electricians, and they come with a level 3
qualification. So there is not a level
2; people pass through where a level 2 would have been at 12 months.
Q7 Chairman: How long is the
overall apprenticeship in that sector?
About three and a half years. It is not
dependent on time-so the idea of a time-served apprenticeship, which is the
historical type of apprenticeship, has gone.
An apprenticeship is gained by gaining a technical certificate at level
3, followed by the NVQ at level 3. It is
the NVQ-the time spent at the workplace doing it-that takes the bulk of the
three and a half years. At the end of
that, there is an achievement measurement test, which is a practical test to
ensure that the time spent on site is not just time served but has achieved the
occupational standard required for the craft of being an electrician. That is pretty standard across most craft
Q8Chairman: Yes, but you are talking about craft
apprenticeships-the model that most of us are familiar with.
Andy Powell, how does that compare
with apprenticeships in other areas like retail or distribution or leisure and
The only thing that I can say in response, though I cannot give the detail, is
that they can be very different. The length of time that apprentices serve can
depend on the individual, as Simon says, but also, on average, it can vary
quite significantly between, for example, engineering on one end, which takes
more like four years, and some of the others, such as customer service or
retail, which can be quite short.
Q9Chairman: How short?
I would have to check this, but I would have thought around a year in some
cases. Most level 2 apprentices take
about 12 to 18 months, but it is nearer 12 months or even shorter in some
cases. Level 3 apprentices take between
a year and a half and two and a half years on average.
We would expect to get retail, business admin and IT apprentices at level 2
through in 12 months if they have the appropriate work experience and can
evidence the competencies in the workplace.
That is what our funding is based on as well.
There is the concept of timely
completions. The LSC has a view of how
long an apprenticeship should take.
Level 3 would take two to three years, but we would be looking to try to
get them through in two years if they have already done level 2.
Q10Chairman: Why, when I inquired
what was the average length of an apprenticeship, was I told it was one
year? There must be some pretty short apprenticeships
if the average is one year.
It depends where the starting point is for the learner. For a level 2, it would be one year. That is what we are funded for. For level 3, it depends on experience-what
level the person is coming in and what knowledge they have of the industry.
Remember that people in employment can undertake apprenticeships, as well as
people new to the industry. Some people
at level 3 would already have substantial experience in the workplace and would
then take a level 3 apprenticeship that would fast track them through quite
quickly, because they can evidence the competencies in the workplace.
Q11Chairman: I want to press
you a little bit more on these very short apprenticeships, especially the
shortest-hairdressing or child care. Are
there apprenticeships in hairdressing?
There are apprenticeships in hairdressing, yes.
Q12Chairman: How many?
I am not aware of how many there are.
Q13Chairman: Does anybody know? Can you give us any idea of what the numbers
are? Are the bulk of our craft
apprenticeships at the moment taking three or three and half years, or are the
bulk very short?
I am drawing on memory here and I might, when the transcript arrives, suggest
an accurate change, but I would think that three quarters of apprenticeships
are at level 2 and that no more than a quarter of apprenticeships are at level
3-in other words, advanced apprenticeships.
A lot depends on the requirements of the occupational standard that is
going to be met by the apprenticeship, and of course, those occupational
standards are slightly dependent on what the employers in a particular industry
want the apprentice to have learned.
There is meant to be some parity
between the occupational standard in hairdressing at level 3 and the
occupational standard of an electrician or plumber at level 3. It is very difficult to compare exactly. You would need to talk to a QCA or an LSC
expert on those. But I would be surprised if an advanced apprenticeship in
plumbing-other than through the accreditation of prior learning that Nick has
just mentioned-or an advanced apprenticeship in hairdressing took significantly
different lengths of time. It might be
two and half to three and half years or two and half to five years, but I
cannot believe that the average length of a level 3 apprenticeship or a level 2
apprenticeship combined number would be 12 months, because that would mean that
some were being pushed through in two or three months, and there is not that
number of candidates with accreditation of prior learning work experience to
The Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network
can probably give you more accurate figures more rapidly than I can.
When people enter the workplace, it is often through a more informal
apprenticeship. You often get someone, say from hairdressing, who will say that
they have left school and they have been taken on as an apprentice. They are not a part of the formal apprenticeship
scheme. They are on low pay, doing
low-skilled jobs in a hairdressing salon, gradually picking up skills. Then they will apply to a college or training
provider to do a formal apprenticeship.
They have already learnt a considerable amount of skills in the
workplace. Those people will achieve
You will then get other people who
will leave school and go straight on to an apprenticeship-like a hairdressing
apprenticeship. They then have to do all the underpinning knowledge, because
they do not have the knowledge of the industry and so on, and they will take
longer. That is one of the beauties of
the apprenticeship scheme-it is customised to the individual's learning needs
and to their experience of the workplace.
Having said that, if we try to hover up a bit from this and say, "How do we
increase the quantity and quality of apprenticeships?", the overall brand and
quality is very important. That is one
thing. The two other things are,
depending on which way you look at it, demand and supply-demand by employers
for young people and the supply of good young people coming in.
The point that you raise, Chairman, is
important. But overall, the increase in
the completion rate is very significant and commendable, and that quality has
made a big difference. If you look at
the statistics-I do not have the details in front of me-and at the length of
that apprenticeship and the time spent on some sort of formal training that
goes with it, there are still a few sectors with areas that should be probed a
bit more. But that is not the biggest
issue here anymore; the demand from employers is a bigger issue. The challenge is that it rightly varies very
considerably between sectors, and you need someone from that sector to understand. There are a few sectors where there is a need
for probing to find whether the quality is still there, but I would suggest
that quality is not, overall, the biggest issue at the moment.
Q14 Chairman: What is the
I think that it is the supply and demand.
At this particular point in time, all the evidence suggests that the
biggest issue is how we encourage employers to take on more young people. There are issues on the supply side as well.
Q15 Chairman: We will be
coming back to that later, when we shall be asking what is the nature of an
apprenticeship based in college and what is the nature of a more traditional
one, based with an employer? But we will
hold that back for other colleagues.
Can I just push you on the aspiration
for 20%? If we are going to have 20% of
people keen to enter apprenticeships, which is something that I have always
supported, it is right that the quality has got to be there and that the brand
has got to be right, so that the parents of young apprentices will have the
comfort of knowing that this is a good qualification that leads them into a
good way of work. Do we agree on that?
Q16 Chairman: Is this new
apprenticeship linked to the fact that the Government are at the same time
going to raise the school leaving age to 18? Do you see this as a very
important part of that development?
Yes, I do. I have mentioned before that
people can leave school at 16 at the moment and say that they are in training,
but they are not; they are on low pay and working and picking up skills in the
workplace without any formal qualifications.
That has now stopped. They can go
to the workplace at 16, but they will have to be on a formal training programme,
gaining qualifications that recognise the skills that they have got. That is a really positive advance.
Also, if the apprenticeships become
part of the portfolio on offer for secondary school children at 16 to 18, you
will probably start to make the numbers you want. At the moment, it is not a part of the
portfolio. The IAG in schools does not
offer children that. There are many reasons
for that. The diplomas have come in, and
they are beginning to confuse the issue for young people and parents as to when
you are getting engaged with the world of work and the skills for work.
Most of the secondary school sector is
now under Building Schools for the Future. There are new buildings, which are
fantastic, but a lot of the schools have premised them on additional student
numbers in terms of their resources.
Secondary schools are looking to hold on to their learners. For a lot of learners, a secure environment,
like a secondary school, is the right place to be, and they are being offered
the diploma route. For a lot of
learners, beginning to engage in the world of work supported by college and
other training provider programmes is the appropriate route, and they are not
necessarily getting that through IAG. It
is the point that Andy alluded to: this is an excellent product. Parents like this product and recognise what
it is, and young people like it. At both
ends, the supply chain is the problem in getting people into the apprenticeship
programme and securing employment opportunities at the other end. The product is good and the Bill has good
initiatives, but the devil is in the detail of how they will pull this off.
Q17 Chairman: Andy, any
Again, relating to the continuing or leaving age, I think that they are mainly
different things. The most important
thing for the Government, and across Parliament, is that a message goes out to
everyone that there are many paths to success for young people. It is not about parity of esteem between a
work-based route, a mixed route or an academic route; it is about parity of
resource and recognition, and that is the fundamental message that we must get
across. As you know, I strongly support the importance of getting parents and
all young people to understand those different routes even from a young
age. However, extending the leaving age
applies primarily, as I recall, to that 9 and 11%-I cannot remember which way
round, but it is those not in education, employment and training, and those in
employment but not in training. That is
a different issue. Most young people
want to learn and get on and it is about providing highly motivational and
relevant ways of people learning. There
is obviously a link, but I do not see that it is a strong connection, if I
understood the question correctly.
Q18 Chairman: So do you not
see it as a coherent set of policies coming from the Government
Department? On the one hand, there is
the raising of the leaving age for education and learning to 18 and the new
diplomas, and this new Apprenticeships Bill.
Is this a joined up piece of policy or is it not?
Potentially. Where the issue still
arises is in how a diploma relates to an apprenticeship, for example. I do know think we quite know yet.
Q19 Chairman: Do none of you
know? Diplomas have started, and we have
apprenticeships. Do any of you know how
they join up?
You can certainly transfer-perhaps I will look to my colleagues on this. You
can do a level 2 diploma and transfer to an apprenticeship. Indeed, you will need to make that available
in the Bill, going from a level 2-whether that is a GCSE or a diploma-to do a
level 2 apprenticeship. That is
legitimate, and at the moment it is blocked in the Bill.
I have a precise point to make, and
then I will ask some of my colleagues who might know the detail better. The area that I always think is missing and
that we are not yet sure about-this tries to put it in the language of any
parent or employer; I, for example, have a 16-year-old boy-is when and why
should I encourage my lad to do GCSEs and go on to A-levels? When should I suggest a diploma route? In theory, that mixture of theory and
practice is excellent and would suit him very well. When should I put him in an
apprenticeship? Similarly, for an
employer, under what conditions and when and why might it be beneficial to
employ someone on an apprenticeship who carries on learning that way, and when
should they take someone who has done the diploma or A-levels, or a graduate? In the education and training world, we tend
to get stuck on what exactly an apprentice and a completion rate are. This is simply a route of learning where
people start beforehand and go on afterwards.
We must understand that better in general layman's terms.
I think that you are asking for a challenging amount of coherence of diplomas
and apprenticeships. In terms of
diplomas, you would ask, which Government target are they aimed at hitting? I suggest that they are hitting the HE target
and encouraging more people to go to HE and vocational HE programmes, rather
than hitting an apprenticeship target.
The concept of transferability from diplomas is challenging. Somebody who has done a level 2 construction
diploma could not transfer to a level 3 construction apprenticeship-they would
need to go back and do a level 2 construction apprenticeship. The level 2 construction apprenticeship is a
vocational training programme training people with skills for the workplace,
which the diploma does not do. It is not
a vocational programme; it is applied learning.
That is a real challenge. You
have products running alongside each other. If professionals in the sector
cannot resolve that, then the customers-the parents and the young people-will
not necessarily be able to resolve it themselves, either.
Q20 Chairman: So what is the
answer? What do the Departments do to sort that one out?
I do not know whether the Department can sort that out. That issue has to be
considered by the people in the field-the employers who take on these young
people at various stages of their career-who 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 them-two weeks in some
schools and colleges-and 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 right-perhaps it is a little bit siloed-was 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 time-perhaps not until they become muddy tracks, but at
least until the grass is trodden down-on 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 now.
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 research-I like Simon's analogy very much-one 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
The third issue relates to policy; it
is wider than apprenticeships. It is
extremely important that we encourage-probably stronger than that; require, if
possible-more 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 things-for 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.
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-level-they have done
one year of what I would refer to as sixth form-getting 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
pathways-compulsory or voluntary-we 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
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 mats-so that the grass and the dirt are not trampled
everywhere-that 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.
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?
Well, what I did not see in the Bill which I saw in the previous document was
the proposal for financial assistance for SMEs 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.
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 employers-arguably
the biggest issue at present-the 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.
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
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
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 apprenticeship scheme?
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 contractor-whatever
happens to be this week's type of contractor-buys 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 building-take this building,
Portcullis House-will 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
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.
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 charge-if 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?
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 now-certainly 10 years-and 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 to.
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 sectors.
Q25 Mr. Carswell: So it is theoretically conceivable that
it could be done, whether you like the idea or not, without central Government
I do not think I said that.
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
success-which I think is important-it 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 the
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 Thornycroft-by an employer
rather than by central Government?
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 employers-they 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
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
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.
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 good-they 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
If all 10 had stayed, or even all six
whom we who 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
Q29 Mr. Carswell:
What is its status?
Simon Bartley: We are a completely independent company. We
are not a non-governmental organisation. 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
after-if you agree that far more people get great training and employers want
them and all the rest of it-this 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
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?
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.
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
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 would not.
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 underspent.
Chairman: Could you
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
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.
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. Forgive me, but the figure is that
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.
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 firms-BT, for example-than 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 point-which I would like to make strongly-about 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
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 later.
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?
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 employer-as I was-of 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 labourers.
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?
No, it does not.
Q34 Chairman: So you would
like us to consider that?
It is an issue, and it has been-it came out of Tomlinson-of 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 16-what they have not
achieved, not what they have achieved-for that particular cohort of young
people: "You did not get five GCSEs A to C."
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 choose-well, it was not
just me; I was supposed to make a choice, but they decided in the end-whether I
would do mechanical or electrical. I can sort of understand that, but the idea
of picking two sectors-saying, "Okay, I might end up an engineer or a
cook"-seems strange. Does that seem sensible to you?
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 two-
Q36 Mr. Heppell: But you can see the rationale. As you
have been talking, I have been thinking. I am keen that the public
sector-health, education and local authorities, which are the biggest employers
in most places-should 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?
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
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?
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 them.
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?
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?
They also restricted practices, so thank you, Barry, for bringing that up.
Q40 Chairman: Do you
anticipate a large number of banking apprenticeships imminently?
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
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 IAG-I have said this before in Barry's hearing-I
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 is-or was
until a couple of days ago-dominated 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
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
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
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.
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 train-NG 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 apprentices.
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
penalties-they 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 business-the
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?
Two hundred and fifty.
Q44 Chairman: That you employ
directly, you train?
Yes, we train.
Q45 Chairman: Is that typical
of an FE college?
In London it
is, but in the midlands and the north you will have colleges with 2,000.
Q46 Chairman: This is a
different question. How many people do
you train for your institution?
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, Nick-the 250-are
what are called programme-led apprenticeships?
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
Q48 Mr. Chaytor: Right, so how is that different from a
programme-led apprenticeship? Are there
still such things?
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
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?
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.
The programme-led-I am not sure that I am happy with the phrase-is 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 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
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 is 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
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.
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 of segregation?
Top down, to many young people whom I have met, including my son, a diploma-the
application of things-would 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?
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?
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
Q54 Mr. Chaytor: On another topic, the apprenticeship
wage is less than the minimum wage. Is
that true? Is that an issue?
It can be.
Q55 Mr. Chaytor: Is it not fixed? Are there fixed amounts? How does it work?
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 schools 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 wage-the minimum wage without a cut-off-because 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 it.
A middle way is that some would say they should start smaller but grow, as an
encouragement for the employer, to check out the employer and for retention.
We used to lose some three-year apprentices because we paid them only 90 per
cent. of the electricians' wages. It was
above the minimum wage, but they knew that they could go off and get another 10
per cent. 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
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?
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
There is, but it depends on the apprenticeship and on how much of the framework
that I deliver-if 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?
He's not getting anywhere close to that.
Hang on. He's not getting anything-nothing.
You said, "He's not getting anywhere close to that."
That is right.
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
Chairman: We have to do a
bit on careers.
Q60 Mr. Pelling: I do not
always share the Carswellian approach-or aversion-to Government, but it is
interesting that in the draft Bill, there is the obligation on the secondary
school head teacher to ensure that the best advice and, where appropriate,
advice about apprenticeships is given.
Is that really necessary? Is it a
bit too heavy-handed? And, what is your
observation of the quality of impartial advice given in schools about training
and apprenticeships in particular?
Far from it-it is the other way. The
Bill as I read it says that consideration should be given to informing people
about the different options. I think it
should be a requirement. It is quite
straightforward: all young people and parents should be made clearly aware of
the different routes and options open to them.
There should also then be consideration of how young people and parents
get real experience of work, of talking to employers, of apprentices, and of
college and university leading the way up there. That is very important. The Skills Commission did a very good report
on that, and at the moment there is a lot of evidence that there is no impartial
advice and guidance. Why would there
be? It is in schools' interest, if they
have a sixth form, for anyone who has reasonable GCSEs to stay in the sixth
form. Again, one thinks of one's own
life, and the chances of young people's parents being told that there is
another option are very slim.
Having said that, finally, I would
say, let us think about different models.
This is not about having to spend billions on loads of careers advisers;
it is about giving the information, about new technology and about encouraging
and enabling young people, which you can these days, to ask people who have
been through it, and to go to websites, which is starting to happen. You get little videos of people who have gone
to university and are apprentices and so forth, but there is a need for significant
I concur with everything that Andy has said.
Practically, I can tell you that within secondary schools in the area where I
work, Lewisham, young people, through the career sessions that they have once a
week in years 10 and 11, will at some point be told about apprenticeship, but
when I attend careers and open evenings for sixth-form applications for
16-year-olds, apprenticeships do not have a stall or stand there. Only if the college attends will they get any
information, so the young person will be made aware of an apprenticeship, but
when the parent attends the school, there is not someone there-there is not a
stand or information. The school is
telling parents about what it can offer, but not about what it cannot offer.
Q61 Mr. Pelling: Does that mean that we should not allow
schools to have that primary role in careers education? Do you think that it should be an impartial
or separate service, perhaps ensconced in a school but nevertheless free of the
slightly slanted advice that you might get in schools?
That is a challenge, though-is it not?-because Connexions is now part of and
delivered by the local authority, which has responsibility for the
schools. Connexions and careers guidance
were at one point independent of local authorities, but now they are not.
The short answer is, yes, it should be independent.
Yes, but I suggest that Connexions is not necessarily independent; it is part
of the local authority.
Q62 Mr. Pelling: There is one difficulty and one reason
why the schools might give slanted advice, other than self-interest. The fundamental question with
apprenticeships, I suppose, is whether they are regarded as being for those who
get lower grades. I wonder how it is
possible, through careers education, to get over that stigma, which is still in
some people's minds.
That is a problem, because that was the case with the old apprenticeship
system, pre-1950s, when young people who did not achieve O-levels, as they were
in those days, went into vocational areas in manufacturing and went on to
apprenticeship schemes. The demands of the new apprenticeship programmes are
substantial. They need gifted and
talented young people who want to work in industry and want to learn in a
practical rather than academic way.
Demands are greater, but the message has not got through that
apprenticeships are different. These are
I want to mention two things. First,
research and stories: there are plenty of examples of people who have given up
A-levels, gone to apprenticeships and been successful. It is not better or worse; it is there. It is about research of understanding what
has happened to apprenticeships, and about those stories.
Secondly, there are areas in the Bill
that need to be encouraged regarding progression. Whilst we should be quite clear that the
primary purpose of apprenticeship is to learn that trade, skill, career and so
forth, none the less, for those who wish to go on, for example, there should be
higher apprenticeships. They exist but
are little known about; one can get a level 4 through an apprenticeship. That is important and should be in the
Bill. Similarly, in our opinion, young
people should be given a chance to access an HE course, if they so choose, at
some later stage, because, of course, it is difficult for an apprentice to go
straight into a university degree. It is
like an extended project, but it involves different skills, and they should
have the opportunity to gain those skills if they so choose.
Most of the stories about progression for apprentices end up at university.
Actually, that is a really bad route to be telling stories about, without
telling them about other routes. In UK Skills-with my skills competitions hat
on-we are looking for young people who are the best welders, the best farriers,
the best electricians. Actually, what we want are the stories of when they go
on and become the best in the country, when they are 35 or 55, at being an
electrical foreman, doing complex works at Wembley Stadium or for the Olympics.
Too often-as we have with diplomas, I
have to say-we get diverted back on to the track of celebrating academic rather
than vocational education. Some of the vocational degrees are equally
responsible for that. The days when somebody does an apprenticeship in
something that leads on to becoming a lawyer, doctor or dentist are few and far
between. Let us have them celebrating the fact that they are an electrician or a
Q63 Chairman: But there are
lots of ways to do that. A chartered engineer does not have to go to
university-you can just keep progressing.
But no one ever sings about them.
Chairman: They do not,
that is right.
David, do you want a quick blast?
Q64 Mr. Chaytor: Perhaps we can stay on careers. Clause
23 of the Bill will require schools to make information about apprenticeships
available. This is just completely hopeless, is it not?
It requires schools to consider-
Q65 Mr. Chaytor: To consider that, yes. This is just a
futile gesture, is it not?
Absolutely. It should require schools to provide all parents and young people
with all options.
Mr. Chaytor: That is right. This is a key clause for
amendment if we are going to get impartial advice for all young people, and the
key to that is getting it out of the individual school. I accept that there is
Connexions within the local authority and still some shared interest, but getting
the responsibility for advice away from the individual school must be crucial,
and clause 23 is where that could be done.
Chairman: On that, note,
I thank you for your attendance. Thank you, Simon, for staying later than the
time when we thought you had to get away. We have learned a lot, and I think we
are well on course to being able to make a contribution to the proposed
legislation. If, when you are travelling home or back to your day jobs, you
think of something that we did not ask you but should have, please e-mail us
and be in contact with us so that we can make this report as good as it can be.