Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 3

Submission from the Association of Learning Providers (ALP)


  The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) represents the interests of a range of organisations delivering State-funded vocational learning. The majority of our 450 member organisations are independent providers holding contracts with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), for the provision of a wide-range of work-based and work-related learning. Amongst our members we also have a number of consultants, regional networks, and around 60 Colleges of FE in membership, alongside nearly 50 charities, giving ALP a well rounded and comprehensive perspective and insight on matters relating to its remit.

  With regard to Apprenticeship provision, our members deliver the majority of Apprenticeships in England, probably in the order of 75%. We believe therefore that we are in an excellent position to pass comment on aspects of this current inquiry, and we are pleased that our Chairman has been invited to give oral evidence to the committee.


    —  It should be recognised that, as demonstrated by the most recent completion figures (64%), Apprenticeships can be regarded as a "world class" programme. (Paragraph 1.)

    —  ALP is content with most aspects of the Bill, but greater involvement of providers, especially but not only in framework development, is essential and the Bill should make this involvement a requirement. (Paragraph 2.)

    —  ALP has severe doubts as to the feasibility of putting into practice any requirement on the LSC to secure the availability of Apprenticeship places. (Paragraph 5.)

    —  ALP supports the description of Apprentices as an employed programme. (Paragraph 6.)

    —  Whilst National Apprenticeships Vacancy Matching Service (NAVMS) will be a useful tool it alone will not result in the increased employer engagement needed. (Paragraph 7.)

    —  ALP wholeheartedly supports the need for proper information, advice and guidance on all options for all young people but it is not clear if the Bill goes far enough to ensure this. (Paragraph 8.)


  1.  Recent developments have already seen a dramatic rise in both the number of young people opting for this route and the quality of Apprenticeships, as demonstrated by the completion rate—now at 64%, a truly world class achievement. We must not become complacent, however, and ALP welcomes the introduction of this Bill, seeing it as a positive move for Apprenticeships. That said, we do have some concerns and/or questions about some aspects which are set out below.

  2.  We are satisfied that the proposals relating to the issue of certificates seem reasonable but we do have some concerns about the process for approving the core elements of Apprenticeship frameworks. We fully support the concept of employers and Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) submitting draft frameworks to the Secretary of State or authorised person. We believe, though, the process for identifying and approving the frameworks must involve a range of interested stakeholders, which must include the training providers that would be required to deliver them. Without their involvement there is a very real danger of frameworks being approved that are in fact undeliverable. For this reason, too, whilst we welcome the requirement (in clause 11) for the LSC to consult during its preparation of a draft specification of Apprenticeship standards for the Secretary of State, it should stipulate that providers in particular must be consulted. The current requirement to `consult such persons as appear to it appropriate' is totally inadequate.

  3.  The draft implies that frameworks will be issued for a maximum of five years, but it does not indicate what will happen at the end of the framework issue period. Will every framework have to be resubmitted, re-approved and reissued, or will there be a mechanism to allow frameworks that are still appropriate and effective to continue to be used with a minimum of bureaucracy?

  4.  We hope that the clarification of the status of the Apprenticeship agreement will clarify the status of Apprenticeships in law as there have been a number of cases where the contractual status of an apprentice has been questioned.

  5.  Whilst welcoming the intentions behind the Bill, we do have some doubts if some aspects, notably the duty on the LSC to secure the availability of Apprenticeship places for all eligible persons who have elected for the scheme, can be delivered. It is not widely recognised that the vast majority of Apprentices take on an Apprenticeship after they have started work with their employer. Very few employers, apart from a few of the large `Blue Chip' companies set out to recruit Apprentices. Whilst in the longer term the plans to raise the age of participation will undoubtedly have a positive effect on this situation, for the next few years, any substantial growth in Apprenticeship numbers will need to come from training providers using their strong links with local employers to persuade them to put the young person they have taken on onto an Apprenticeship. Until this is recognised and measures introduced to enable training providers to maximise their expertise in this area any growth in Apprenticeships will fall far below what might actually be achieved.

  6.  We wholeheartedly support the definition of Apprenticeship, which makes it clear it requires "employment". We have always argued against the use of the term "Programme Led Apprenticeships" to describe what are in fact simply college based "Programme Led Pathways" offering the young person a programme of learning that could lead them into an Apprenticeship proper further down the line. We do of course recognise that there are a few instances where the young person is legally unable to be employed as an Apprentice (eg Care, where there are age restrictions that prevent this) and in those specific cases we do therefore support the definition of these unemployed but "work based" learners as Apprentices

  7.  From the start ALP has supported the concept of the National Vacancy Matching Service (NAVMS), feeling it will play a useful role in matching potential Apprentices with appropriate employers, but we do not believe it to be the sole answer to increasing employer engagement in the way needed to grow the programme in line with government targets, or indeed the most significant element. That will only be achieved by making better use of the training providers and their very experienced sales teams, and by taking off the restrictions to growth of Apprenticeship numbers imposed by the current LSC contracting system.

  8.  ALP has consistently argued the need for universal, impartial information, advice and guidance (IAG) for all young people on all the options and routes open to them, including Apprenticeships. We have argued that the decision to place the responsibility for IAG with local authorities and children's trusts was a backward step and hope that the proposed changes to the Education Act 1997 will go some way to address our concerns. It is not completely clear from the draft, however, exactly what the requirement is, ie if the requirement is just to consider whether the young person needs to be told about Apprenticeships or not. If that were the case some young people might still not be told of the option, and we believe that would be wrong. All young people must be given information on all the options available to them. Given ALP's wholehearted support for the need to ensure that all young people in schools are fully informed about the high quality vocational opportunities open to them, as recognised in this Bill, we would argue that this must be tackled by changes to primary legislation as proposed, rather than through other mechanisms such as statutory guidance. That would be much weaker in practice and easily ignored, whereas a legal right can be acted upon within the legal system by any student (or even provider).

September 2008

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