Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Seventh Report

2   Rationale for the legislation


The Government starts from a respectable position. It has a solid record of achievement on the number of apprenticeships. In 2005-06 the Learning and Skills Council funded approximately 257,000 apprenticeships compared with 75,000 participants in 1997; of these, 160,000 were for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and 97,000 were aged 19 and over.[22] Completion rates for apprenticeships have also been improving. In 2006-07, 111,800 LSC-funded learners completed apprenticeships (all ages—16 plus), an increase of nearly two-thirds on the 68,000 completions in 2004-05, and a three-fold increase since 2001-02.[23] The latest figures on overall success rates of apprenticeships are provided in the Table 1 below and show a steady improvement from 2004-05 to 2006-07 for both apprenticeships and advanced apprenticeships.[24]
Table 1: Work-based Learning for Young People in England: overall success rates[25]
Framework or NVQ

component only
Complete framework
Total leavers
2004-05 2005-06 2006-072004-05 2005-06
2004-05 2005-062006-07
Advanced Apprenticeships[26] 48%53% 64%34% 44%58% 5-1,300 63,90055,400
Apprenticeships[27] 51%58% 65%39% 52%61% 114,200 127,100123,300
All Apprenticeships 50% 56% 65% 37% 49% 60% 165,400 191,000 178,700

The figures are not all pointing in the same direction. The average number of people in Level 2 apprenticeships in 2006-07 was 142,100, down from 153,800 in 2004-05 and 154,300 in 2005-06[28] (see Table 2 below). In addition, as Table 2 shows, the numbers of advanced (or Level 3) apprenticeships have been falling steadily since 2000-01, while the number of Level 2 has increased (except for 2006-07). This may indicate that fewer apprentices are progressing.
Table 2: Work-based Learning for Young People in England: participants[29]
Thousands; annual averages
2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
Advanced Apprenticeships(a) 126.7 111.8110.6 104.8 101.8 98.097.0
Apprenticeships(b) 86.6101.6 123.1 143.1 153.8 154.3 142.1
NVQ learning 49.549.2 40.6 27.9 17.4 6.62.4
E2E(c) 7.0 8.013.4 30.6 26.3 24.321.3
Total 268.8 270.7 287.8 306.5 299.3 283.2 263.2
Notes: 2003-04 onwards uses a revised methodology.
(a) Known as Advanced Modern Apprenticeships prior to May 2004.
(b) Known as Foundation Modern Apprenticeships prior to May 2004.
(c) Known as Life Skills prior to May 2004.

The Government has characterised the change as a "renaissance"[30] and it has pointed out that the country's leading companies—including Rolls Royce, British Telecom, Centrica and Tesco—offer sizeable apprenticeship programmes.[31] The 2006 Leitch review of skills recommended expanding and strengthening the existing apprenticeship programme. Specifically, it recommended:

  • the Government should consider creating a new entitlement as resources allow so that every young person with the right qualifications should be able to take up an Apprenticeship place;[32]
  • matched funding and employer powers to shape apprenticeships, in return for hard edged attainment targets in Sector Skills Agreements to increase employer engagement that included expanding the number of apprentices in the UK to 500,000 a year by 2020;[33]
  • Sector Skills Councils should control the content of apprenticeships and set attainment targets by sector facilitated by skills brokers;[34] and
  • employers drive up attainment of intermediate and high skills, including in Apprenticeships, led by Sector Skills Councils and skills brokers.[35]

Taking its lead from Leitch, the Government reviewed apprenticeships and set out its conclusions in January 2008 in World-class Apprenticeships. Its main conclusions were:

a)  new National Apprenticeship Service to lead the expansion and improvement of the apprenticeship programme;

b)  action to make it easier for employers to improve the range of apprenticeships by, for example, enabling them to include their own accredited qualifications;

c)  a pilot wage subsidy programme for small businesses, to make it more attractive for them to offer high quality apprenticeship places;

d)  a new drive to increase apprenticeships in the public sector, setting targets in key areas;

e)  a task force to improve the take up of apprenticeships in London, where there is a current shortfall; and

f)  examination of how to use the public procurement process to encourage companies that benefit from significant Government-funded contracts to offer apprenticeships as a good way of meeting their responsibility to train and develop their staff.[36]

We conclude that the Government is to be congratulated on its achievements in expanding the number of apprenticeships. But within the overall improvement there are some trends which give rise to concern, in particular, the fall in advanced apprenticeships. The Leitch review of skills and the strategy set out in World-class Apprenticeships also demonstrate that it recognises that more needs to be done.

Purpose of the draft Bill

The draft Bill is part of the Government's strategy to expand and improve apprenticeships. Its primary, though not exclusive, focus is on items a) and b) in the Leitch list above. In their foreword to the draft Bill the Secretaries of State explained:

The Bill will, for the first time, place duties on the Learning and Skills Council to secure sufficient and appropriate Apprenticeship places to fulfil the entitlement for each suitably qualified young person who wants one.

It will establish a statutory basis for the Apprenticeships programme, to set out the relationship between different parts of the Apprenticeship system and to ensure employers and apprentices can be confident that an Apprenticeship offers a high quality route to acquiring skills. In doing so, we will ensure that the system is sufficiently flexible not to place additional burdens on employers other than a requirement to enter into an apprenticeship agreement.

The Bill describes the functions of the new National Apprenticeship Service, which will provide new, focused leadership for the Apprenticeship Programme. One particularly important role of the new service will be to expand the reach of the programme into sectors, regions and groups where apprenticeship take up is presently low.

The draft Bill also includes a provision to ensure that young people in schools are fully informed about high quality vocational training opportunities.[37]

Much of the Government's policy can, and will, be achieved through administrative means,[38] consideration of which largely falls outside our inquiry, and, importantly by encouraging business to invest in training and apprenticeships. As the Government explained in World-class Apprenticeships, "Employers will always be at the heart of the Apprenticeship programme: their willingness to offer a place is a necessary condition for any Apprenticeship to happen."[39] We consider the requirements of business, and whether they have been met by the draft Bill, in chapter 3.

As well as business, apprentices and prospective apprentices and education and training providers are crucial to the achievement of the Government's policy.


We were not able in the time available to set up an e-consultation to seek the views of apprentices or those considering an apprenticeship with the result that we received no direct evidence from apprentices. The evidence that we received was indirect—from employers, the Learning and Skills Council, training providers and the TUC. From this evidence we were told that their main concerns were:

  • entry requirements preventing admission to apprenticeships;[40]
  • the importance of quality; The British Chambers of Commerce considered that the "reason why large numbers of people have now gone off for an academic route with the huge expansion of higher education is because apprenticeships have not been seen as quality alternatives."[41]
  • the need to acquire a range of skills beyond those that are necessary to carry out one job,[42] which allow apprentices to develop their careers and to move jobs;
  • easier access to higher education;[43] and
  • that apprentices sacrifice earnings in order to develop their skills and therefore should have some guarantee that they are able to complete their programme.[44]

We examine these issues further during the report.


We found it anomalous that legislation aiming to bring about an "ambitious expansion and strengthening of the Apprenticeship Programme" from a Government that wants "apprenticeships to be seen alongside university as a great option for young people who want the best jobs, the best careers and the best chance to get on in life"[45] did not define in legislation "apprenticeships" or, as the Edge Foundation pointed out, higher apprenticeships,[46] that is Level 3 "advanced apprenticeships". An agreed definition of apprenticeships would ensure that those framing the specification of apprenticeship standards and apprenticeship frameworks started from a common understanding of the essential characteristics of apprenticeships—for example, which excluded "programme-led apprenticeships", which we discuss below—but without imposing inflexibility. We recommend that the finalised legislation define "apprenticeship" and "advanced apprenticeship". We have not taken evidence on the definitions but we note as a starting point that the Cassels Report on Modern Apprenticeships[47] in 2001 suggested the characteristics of all apprenticeships were:

a)  an employer agrees to train a person, using the practices, equipment and personnel of his or her enterprise in doing so;

b)  a mixture of on-and off-the-job learning is involved; and

c)  the completion of apprenticeship leads to public recognition that the apprentice has achieved proficiency in a trade, profession or occupation.[48]


We received evidence on programme-led apprenticeships. These are courses (normally based in colleges and offered as full-time vocational courses) in which a young person undertakes classroom based learning that conforms to a particular apprenticeship framework.[49] Business was clear that for "apprenticeship schemes to work they must be employer led" and based "in the workplace to make them effective".[50] Lord Young explained that programme-led apprenticeships did not "come within the meaning of what we define as apprenticeships because there is not a contract of employment with the employer".[51]

The Association of Colleges saw benefit in this form of training. It considered that the training provided by programme-led apprenticeships filled a need and put forward the proposal that "there should be an access to apprenticeships rather than calling it 'Programme-led', which was a bit of a misnomer, which says it prepares me to undertake an apprenticeship."[52] Sara Mogel from the Association explained that programme-led apprenticeships could assist particular groups:

one is […] young people who are not ready for work but would like to go down the apprenticeship route and this would give them a tailored programme rather than them having to do a programme which did not have them in mind; the second category […] is the transition between the foundation learning tier and an apprenticeship which probably will need something to fill that gap in between and, again, an access to apprenticeships would be that route. I think the concept is fine, but I am not sure necessarily we have sold that concept very well.[53]

We conclude that so called programme-led apprenticeships could provide a useful preparation for an employer-led apprenticeship but they are not apprenticeships within the meaning of the proposals in the draft Bill. We recommend that, for the sake of clarity, "programme-led apprenticeships" are renamed "pre-apprenticeship training" or an appropriate title reflecting the nature and function of the training. We further recommend that the Government review the purpose of what has been called programme led apprenticeships, to ensure that the content of the training meets the requirements of participants. We also recommend that the Government make the connection between "programme-led apprenticeships" and apprenticeships transparent. It should be clear to participants how the qualifications achieved through completing the "programme-led apprenticeship" connect with, and may count towards, the successful achievement of the qualification requirements specified in the (follow-on) apprenticeship.

Training providers

We received evidence from the Association of Learning Providers, which represents independent learning providers throughout England, and from the Association of Colleges, which represents further education colleges in England and Wales. The former was "content with most aspects of the Bill".[54] The latter, while welcoming "the intention to raise the status of Apprenticeships so that they are seen as a third viable learning pathway at levels two and three alongside Diplomas and GCSE/A levels", was concerned that there was a "danger" the proposals could impose "too many restrictions when what is required is flexibility to engage employers and meet their diverse needs. We would wish to ensure that there is still sufficient flexibility to allow innovative models of delivery to flourish".[55] We concur with the Association of Colleges that the system put in place by the draft Bill must ensure that there is flexibility to allow training providers—further education colleges and independent learning providers—to play a full part in the promotion and expansion of apprenticeships and that there should be scope for them to develop new roles such as brokers and the provision of support geared to the needs of small businesses.

Training providers also raised:

a)  the need to be consulted about the specification of apprenticeship standards[56] which is linked to the need to safeguard quality, where we see the training providers having a key role—we deal with these issues in chapter 5; and

b)  the capacity of training providers to meet the training needs of every person exercising his or her right, under the proposed legislation, to an apprenticeship. Mr Dunford, Chairman of the Association of Learning Providers, told us that the capacity was not yet available and that there "needs to be some capacity building".[57] We draw to the attention of the Government the concerns of the learning providers about their capacity to provide enough training for apprenticeships. We invite the Government to explain, in responding to this Report, what plans it has to encourage greater provision of training, to meet the needs of those exercising their right to apprenticeships under the draft Bill.

Is the draft legislation necessary?

While the evidence we received showed support for the draft Bill, there is an open question whether legislation is necessary. The draft Bill would put much of the current arrangements on a statutory basis. But, as we have noted, the current arrangements have produced a substantial expansion in the number of apprenticeships without the need for legislation. Mr Dunford from the Association of Learning Providers pointed out that "I do not remember anyone saying that we needed an Apprenticeship Bill before it happened".[58]

One theme running through the evidence was the need to improve the perception and status of apprenticeships and the draft Bill was seen as helping to serve this end.

a)  The British Chambers of Commerce believed that: "we need […] to raise how apprenticeships are viewed not just within business but within society as a whole. If we are to do that to make them a real quality route through employment, we believe that this Bill will help".[59]

b)  David Way, National Director of Apprenticeships, at the Learning and Skills Council, said that "We need the Bill because […] we need to consolidate and put in legislation the importance of apprenticeships for the ambitions of the country, that is a very good thing for us to do".[60]

Use of legislation purely to show the importance the Government, or we as a country, attach to a matter is a questionable use of legislative process and of the House's time. The draft Bill does, however, fulfil other purposes in our view. It would place a duty on the Learning and Skills Council (which will pass to the National Apprenticeship Service, when it is established) to secure sufficient apprenticeship places to fulfil the entitlement for each suitably qualified young person who wants one.[61] It also makes some provision for the functions of the National Apprenticeship Service.[62] We conclude that the legislation is justified as it creates a new entitlement that every young person with the right qualifications should be able to take up an apprenticeship and to make provision for some of the functions of the putative National Apprenticeship Service. The contribution that the legislation will make to the expansion, improvement and status of apprenticeships will depend on its implementation.

From our perspective there are four key issues on which the value of the legislation to interested parties, and how they may use it, turns: (i) the responsiveness of the system to the needs of employers; (ii) the role and operation of the National Apprenticeship Service; (iii) the quality of apprenticeships; and (iv) the rights of apprentices. Each of these issues we examine.

22   Learning and Skills Council, "Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives, The Learning and Skills Council's Annual Report and Accounts for 2006-07", HC (2006-07) 840, 17 July 2007, p 3, World-class Apprenticeships, para 2.13 Back

23   Learning and Skills Council, "Further Education, work-based learning and Train to Gain-LSC-funded learner outcomes in England 2006/07", Statistical First Release: ILR/SFR16, 22 May 2008 Back

24   We have not attempted to reconcile the figures for completion rates and leavers; the numbers in Table 1 are not all "successful" completions.  Back

25   Learning and Skills Council, "Further Education, Work Based Learning, Train To Gain and Adult & Community Learning-Learner; Numbers in England: 2006/07: Full Year Plus, Learning and Skills Council", 23 May 2008 Back

26   Known as Advanced Modern Apprenticeships prior to May 2004; also known as a Level 3 apprenticeships which refers to a standard equivalent to two A levels or a National Vocational Qualification at Level 3.  Back

27   Known as Foundation Modern Apprenticeships prior to May 2004; also known as a Level 2 apprenticeships which refers to a standard equivalent to five GCSEs at A*-C or a National Vocational Qualification at Level 2.  Back

28   Learning and Skills Council, "Further Education, Work Based Learning, Train To Gain and Adult & Community Learning-Learner Numbers in England: 2006/07", ILR/SFR14, December 2007, House of Commons Library, "Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning for Young People", Standard Note: SN/EP/3052, 22 October 2008 Back

29   Learning and Skills Council, "Further Education, Work Based Learning, Train To Gain and Adult & Community Learning-Learner Numbers in England: 2006/07", ILR/SFR14, December 2007, House of Commons Library, "Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning for Young People", Standard Note: SN/EP/3052, 22 October 2008 Back

30   World-class Apprenticeships, p 5 Back

31   As above Back

32   Leitch review of skills, para 66 Back

33   Leitch review of skills, p 87 Back

34   Leitch review of skills, para 5.66 Back

35   Leitch review of skills, para 5.69 Back

36   DIUS and DCSF, "Expanding Apprenticeships, developing World-Class skills", Joint news release, 28 January 2008  Back

37   Draft Apprenticeships Bill, p 1 Back

38   Following the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, DIUS and DCFS jointly announced plans to expand funding to the Learning and Skills Council for Apprenticeships over the period to 2010-11 with the aim of 400,000 learners in England (281,000 aged 16-18 and 125,000 aged over 19), compared with approximately 250,000 currently (DIUS, "Ambitious plan to help boost nation's job prospects", Press Release, 16 November 2007). In 2010-11 it is planned that funding for Apprenticeships for 16-18 year old will total £776 million (compared with £624 million in 2007-08) while Apprenticeships for those aged over 19 will receive £334 million in 2010-11, compared with £275 million in 2007-08 (Learning and Skills Council, "Our statement of priorities: Better skills, Better jobs, Better lives; The Learning and Skills Council's priorities and key actions for 2008/09 to 2010/11", November 2007, tables 2 and 10). Back

39   World-class Apprenticeships, para 2.3 Back

40   Ev 52, para 6.7 [Edexcel] Back

41   Q 38 Back

42   Q 49 Back

43   Ev 67 [Edge Foundation] Back

44   Ev 39 [TUC] Back

45   World-class Apprenticeships, p 1 Back

46   Ev 68 Back

47   Department for Education and Skills, Modern Apprenticeships: The Way To Work, The Report of the Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, September 2001 Back

48   Department for Education and Skills, Modern Apprenticeships: The Way To Work, The Report of the Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, September 2001, para 3.1 Back

49   World-class Apprenticeships, para 3.16 Back

50   Qq 44-45 [Mr Frost, Ms Seaman] Back

51   Q 135; see also Appendix 1, Error! Reference source not found.. Back

52   Q 61; see also Ev 37, para 6 [Association of Learning Providers]. Back

53   Q 61 Back

54   Ev 37 Back

55   Ev 69, para 1 Back

56   Ev 37, para 2 [Association of Colleges] Back

57   Q 56 [Mr Dunford] Back

58   Q 54 [Mr Dunford] Back

59   Q 2 Back

60   Q 96 Back

61   Draft Apprenticeships Bill, clause 21 Back

62   Draft Apprenticeships Bill, clauses 21-22 Back

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