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

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  We recommend that, when it decides that a piece of legislation will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government consult with the select committees likely to carry out scrutiny and agree a timetable and arrangements before publication of the draft legislation, in order to allow committees to plan their work. (Paragraph 7)

2.  We recommend that, when publishing draft bills for pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government provide comprehensive documents describing the policy behind the legislation and the detailed operation of the arrangements in the draft legislation. In addition, we recommend that it also publish a comprehensive impact assessment covering all the proposals in the legislation, including the costs of establishing and running new public sector organisations or arrangements. (Paragraph 8)

3.  We have grave concerns that the Departments have treated consultation with the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales as an afterthought. The consultation on the operation of apprenticeships in Wales and on the application of the draft legislation to Wales has clearly been inadequate and we recommend that the Government rectify this deficiency before the provisions in the draft Bill are finalised. (Paragraph 10)

4.  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. (Paragraph 15)

5.  We recommend that the finalised legislation define "apprenticeship" and "advanced apprenticeship". (Paragraph 20)

6.  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. (Paragraph 23)

7.  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. (Paragraph 24)

8.  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. (Paragraph 25)

9.  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. (Paragraph 28)

10.  We agree with the Government that employers have to be at the heart of the apprenticeship programme. Without their full support the renaissance in apprenticeships will not be achieved. We welcome the support that employers' organisations have given to the policy. (Paragraph 30)

11.  Taking the draft Bill as a whole, we conclude that, for those employers represented by the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, the draft Bill has the potential to deliver two of their key requirements: a reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy through greater flexibility and streamlining of the central government agencies supporting apprenticeships. The extent to which these goals are achieved will depend on the implementation of the framework provisions and the operation of the National Apprenticeship Service. (Paragraph 35)

12.  We recommend that the draft Bill be revised to place a duty on the National Apprenticeship Service to facilitate the setting up of bodies such as groups Training Associations, to assist small businesses to carry the administrative burden of setting up apprenticeships, organising training and securing financial support. The duty should also require the National Apprenticeship Service to ensure that such bodies cover all sectors and put small and micro-businesses within their reach. We also recommend that in responding to this Report the Government set out the extent to which it expects the public sector—both central and local government—to carry out these functions. In addition, we recommend that, where an apprenticeship is facilitated under the auspices of such a body, the apprentice must be employed by a business, not the body providing administrative support. (Paragraph 42)

13.  We recommend the draft Bill be amended to provide that apprentices aged 16 to 18 be paid the Minimum Wage Development rate within a specified time. (Paragraph 44)

14.  We conclude that the economic downturn throws up challenges and opportunities for the Government's policy on apprenticeships. There are, as far as we can see, no provisions in the draft Bill that have been specifically designed to encourage the provision of apprenticeships during the downturn. We recommend that the Government set out in detail (i) how it expects the public sector, both central and local government, to provide and organise apprenticeships to meet the challenges of the downturn and (ii) what additional resources will be provided. (Paragraph 48)

15.  We recommend that, in responding to this Report, the Government clarify whether it expects the majority of apprentices within the civil service and public sector to be existing employees who "convert" to apprenticeships and what steps it is taking to monitor the quality of the training provided to apprentices in the private and public sectors who "convert". (Paragraph 49)

16.  From the perspective of support for apprentices we consider that the winding-up of the Learning and Skills Council poses particular challenges at an important time. The primary cause for the change falls outside the scope of our inquiry and is unrelated to improving and promoting apprenticeships. We took limited reassurance from the Learning and Skills Council's evidence about continuity and are concerned that the establishment of the National Apprenticeship Service may be seen as the by-product of a wider reorganisation, which is principally concerned with the raising of the education and training leaving age to 18. We recommend that, in the documentation accompanying the finalised legislation, the Government set out in detail the organisational implications of the raising of the leaving age on the expansion and operation of apprenticeships and reaffirms the central position of the National Apprenticeship Service. (Paragraph 52)

17.  We were unable to form a conclusion on the operation of the National Apprenticeship Service—for example, its relationship to the existing National Employer Service which contracts with large employers for apprenticeships—because little information about its operation was provided with the draft Bill, supporting documentation or in response to our questions. Nor were we provided with evidence to be able to judge whether the Government's claims that the National Apprenticeship Service would provide an improved service were justified. Given the future importance of the Service this lack of information is completely unsatisfactory. We recommend that, to accompany the finalised legislation, the Government produce a detailed memorandum setting out how the National Apprenticeship Service will operate at national, regional and local level to fulfil its functions, setting out the proposed number of staff to carry out each function, along with a budget showing the costs of setting up and running the Service. (Paragraph 56)

18.  In view of the functions allocated to the National Apprenticeship Service we conclude that it is important that the targets on apprenticeships measure the starts and completion rates of apprenticeships by sector and size of business, charting milestones towards the Government's aspiration of 400,000 apprentices in England by 2020. In addition, the targets need to provide an accurate measure of quality of training. We recommend that the Government draw up and publish with the finalised legislation an indicative set of targets for the prospective National Apprenticeship Service. (Paragraph 57)

19.  We conclude that the collection of accurate and timely data on apprenticeships will be crucial not only to the measurement of progress against targets but also informing the formulation of policy. But the requirements to supply data have to be such as not to impose an undue burden on business. We recommend that the Government draw up and publish with the finalised legislation its plans for the collection of data on apprentices and apprenticeships and for the publication of data. The data required will need to differentiate between new entrants and those converting from existing employment to an apprenticeship, track the progression to apprentices and identify characteristics such as age, gender, ethnic background, disability and sector. (Paragraph 60)

20.  We recommend the legislation impose a duty on the National Apprenticeship Service to promote and enhance apprenticeships. (Paragraph 61)

21.  We conclude that the Government's proposal to replace completion certificates issued by Sector Skills Councils with a "national" certificate issued by the National Apprenticeship Service fits with the proposals in the draft Bill to achieve national recognition for apprenticeships. We also conclude that the draft Bill will not, and should not, substantially change the existing structures and roles played by the Sector Skills Councils. (Paragraph 64)

22.  We recommend that the National Apprenticeship Matching Service be designed to complement, not replace or duplicate, existing arrangements for putting prospective apprentices in contact with employers, and that the primary focus of the Service be on meeting local needs. The results of the trials currently underway should be published before the Second Reading of the Bill. Finally, we recommend that the Government draw up and publish with the finalised legislation its estimates of the costs for the setting up and running the Matching Service. (Paragraph 67)

23.  The draft Bill makes no reference to quality of apprenticeships. We conclude that the consequences of the substantial expansion of the numbers need to be carefully monitored, to ensure that the quality of apprenticeships as a brand is safeguarded. Ofsted is not suitable to carry out this role as its focus is not on apprenticeships and its approach has been characterised as bureaucratic and mechanistic. In our view the most suitable candidate for this essential job is the National Apprenticeship Service. We recommend that the finalised legislation must contain a provision requiring the National Apprenticeship Service to test and report on the quality of apprenticeships in England. (Paragraph 74)

24.  We conclude that a draft specification of apprenticeship standards should have been supplied with the draft Bill. Its absence has impeded our scrutiny and prevented interested parties from examining the full impact of the likely use of the provisions in the draft Bill. We recommend that a detailed draft specification be produced and published as a matter of urgency and well before Second Reading of the Bill. In our view the specification of apprenticeship standards has to ensure that the quality of apprenticeships is maintained by ensuring, for example, a minimum period of good quality off-the-job training is specified in each apprenticeship framework. In addition, the Government needs to explain how conflicts—between Sector Skills Councils and employers or between the National Apprenticeship Service and Sector Skills Councils—will be resolved. (Paragraph 78)

25.  We recommend that the provision in the draft Bill on consultation on the specification of apprenticeship standards should be amended to require employers and training providers to be consulted. (Paragraph 79)

26.  The award of UCAS points for completion of advanced apprenticeships would enhance the quality of apprenticeships and make apprenticeships more attractive to those entering the job market or seeking to change career. We conclude that establishing that all advanced apprenticeships automatically attract UCAS points sufficient for entry into some higher education for some courses that are cognate to the apprenticeship would be a powerful demonstration of the quality, consistency and currency of the programme. (Paragraph 82)

27.  We believe that it is essential that all advanced apprenticeships should carry sufficient UCAS points for entry to higher education and that this will provide the leverage necessary to facilitate and encourage progression to higher education. (Paragraph 84)

28.  It is unclear what the right given at clause 21 of the draft Bill to all suitably qualified young people to an apprenticeship will mean in practice. We recommend that the Government make a statement setting out its intention when the Bill comes before the House. (Paragraph 88)

29.  We recommend that in responding to this Report the Government explain in detail, and with examples, the circumstances in which it would suspend the right to an apprenticeship at clause 21. (Paragraph 89)

30.  If the "right" to an apprenticeship is defined and made meaningful, the Government should provide it to those aged 19 and over. (Paragraph 90)

31.  We conclude the academic qualifications required for the statutory right to apprenticeships at clause 21 are too rigid and recommend that the Government relax them. We recommend that the Government explore the option of using a portfolio of evidence, rather than formal academic qualifications alone. (Paragraph 94)

32.  We recommend that before finalising the entry requirements the Government review the effect of such requirements on groups which traditionally have not been well-represented among apprentices. (Paragraph 95)

33.  We conclude that a provision to enshrine an obligation to attempt to find an alternative placement on an employer, who does not wish to continue to provide an apprenticeship, could go against the grain of the Government's policy to encourage employers to offer more apprenticeships. We recommend, however, that where an apprenticeship, to which the provisions at clause 21 applied, is terminated because of redundancy as defined at section 139 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 or because of insolvency, the former apprentice's right to an apprenticeship, and concomitant duty on the National Apprenticeship Service, be reinstated even if he or she has attained the age of 19. (Paragraph 98)

34.  We recommend that the Government insert a provision into the finalised legislation requiring the National Apprenticeship Service to establish a mediation service for apprentices dissatisfied with the quality of the training they are receiving. (Paragraph 101)

35.  The legislation is justified because it will strengthen the structure for apprenticeships in England. But it needs additional measures, particularly those to guarantee quality of training and to allow apprentices to progress in their chosen professions. As the legislation builds on existing structures we expect that it is workable. Whether it will deliver the Government's targets and a renaissance in apprenticeships depends on the detail of the system and on whether employers, which the legislation places in the driving seat, make full use of the provisions and the other measures to promote apprenticeships. We cannot wait until 2020 to discover whether the legislation is working. The Government will need to review the legislation by 2014. If insufficient employers are establishing apprenticeships the Government will have to consider stronger measures to change behaviour. (Paragraph 102)

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