Submission from the British Chambers of
The British Chambers of Commerce is the national
body for a powerful and influential Network of Accredited Chambers
of Commerce across the UK; a Network that directly serves not
only its member businesses but the wider business community.
Representing over 100,000 businesses and 5 million
employees, the British Chambers of Commerce is The Ultimate Business
Network. Every Chamber sits at the very heart of its local business
community working with businesses to grow and develop individuals,
businesses, communitiesand ultimately, the nation's economyby
sharing opportunities, knowledge and know-how.
No other business organisation makes such a
difference to business as the British Chambers of Commerce.
The British Chambers of Commerce
is supportive of any planned increase in the number of apprenticeships
undertaken. We believe that providing a statutory basis for apprenticeships
is a positive step forward, and will help to make then a mainstream
option in 14-19 education.
Apprenticeships must be employer
led and focused on business needs, while also containing an element
of accredited training that will allow progression for the apprentice.
Elements of apprenticeships must tie in with other qualifications
to make the system cohesive and understandable.
Clear and impartial information,
advice and guidance is also needed in schools and college to help
young people make appropriate decisions about their futures.
The National Apprenticeship Service
must be regionally rooted, within existing organisations and be
as light-touch as possible, otherwise it will just serve as a
disincentive for employers. Equally quality assurance must also
Apprenticeships should be firmly
rooted within the qualifications frameworks, and have clear routes
of progression into higher qualifications as well as within employment.
The British Chambers of Commerce supports the
proposal that apprenticeships should be a mainstream educational
option for young people. Likewise, we support the premise that
a greater number of apprenticeships places should be created.
While the Diplomas will introduce a much needed element of work
skills into the classroom, many young people will benefit from
the offer of apprenticeships as a wholly vocational pathway based
with an employer rather than in a programme.
A STATUTORY BASIS
The BCC recognises that providing a statutory
framework for apprenticeships will mean that they are more likely
to become a mainstream option in the way that A-Levels, GCSEs
and Diplomas are today. However, there is also concern over a
number of issues regarding the nature of a statutory framework.
The statutory basis for apprenticeships must
not result in increased bureaucracy. Too much paperwork has been
cited as a reason why many employers have been apprehensive about
taking on apprentices. If this issue is not addressed, it will
derail the government's plans, as businesses will be unwilling
to engage with the system. The Secretary of State for Universities,
Innovation and Skills has promised that he would look into the
reduction of the bureaucracy associated apprenticeships. We look
forward to seeing action is this area.
Employers must have of freedom in deciding what
apprentices they need and the types of skills that their apprentices
should develop beyond the functional and generic learning of apprenticeship
programmes. Taking on apprentices will, and should ultimately
always be a business decision dictated by the individual needs
of that business.
The BCC supports of the introduction of certification
for apprenticeships. Certification will help to give apprenticeships
a similar status to other mainstream qualifications, and also
facilitate progression routes of apprentices once their study
The broad outline for apprenticeship blueprints
outlined in the draft Bill is the correct one, but should be as
light-touch and bureaucracy free as possible otherwise business
will not want to take on apprentices.
Businesses believe that all apprenticeships
should be essentially employer led, with programme based training
elements that occupy no more than one to two days per week of
the apprentices time depending on the apprenticeship and stage
of study. The BCC does not believe that programme led vocational
courses can be considered to be apprenticeships. Such courses
often feature training grouped together in a single block and
no direct relationship with an employer sourced from the outset.
Such programmes only serve to weaken the apprenticeship brand
and give young people a less practical learning experience compared
to employer led apprenticeships. Being attached to an employer
is essential for the apprentice's interpersonal skills, personal
management skills and wider functional skills to develop, as well
as to help them put theory into practice.
We believe that apprenticeships should be placed
within the wider qualifications structure from the outset. This
is important because it will give them a better status when placed
alongside other qualifications than they currently have. This
will also aid in progression to further and higher education,
as well as within employment. The planned introduction of a National
Qualifications Framework will be of great benefit to employers
and will help to strengthen apprenticeships. The core elements
of apprenticeships, Diplomas and the functional skills that are
to be part of the general route (GCSEs and A-Levels) should be
related and interchangeable, as this will add coherence and cohesion
to the system.
The relationship between apprenticeships and
Diplomas is clearly an important one. Diplomas are designed as
a bridge between academic and vocational learning, and we conceive
that many students who undertake the Diploma will progress onto
apprenticeships. Relevant parts of the Diploma should be co-ordinated
with the programme elements of apprenticeships to ensure that
the relationship between the two qualifications is as complementary
Mutual weight to credit within elements of each
qualification should be ensured also, as this would mean that
students would find it easier to transfer between the two streams
if they found one unsuitable. This would help counter the problem
of young people between 18 and 19 years of age who are not in
education, employment or training (NEET). Many people in this
age group who find themselves NEET do so because they have dropped
out a course they have found unsuitable, but have been unable
to start another course or programme immediately. If the qualifications
marry up effectively, it would reduce this group by aiding transferability.
There must also be clear progression routes
for certain apprenticeships up through the qualifications ladder.
For example, certain engineering apprentices will wish to gain
Level 4 qualifications (Bachelor degrees). This will help to increase
the image of apprenticeships and will encourage more young people
to undertake them.
In apprenticeship frameworks, it is likely that
NVQs will make up the part of the programme element. The quality
of NVQs must also be analysed and be addressed where it is found
wanting. NVQs must also be placed into smaller units so that employers
can create programme elements that are most suited to their businesses
For apprenticeships to become a mainstream option,
young people need to be given effective and impartial information,
advice and guidance. Schools and colleges must be able to promote
apprenticeships to young people and their parents as a realistic
and valuable option for certain learners. Without this support
form the educational establishment, the government will be unable
to increase the number of young people undertaking apprenticeships.
The government should ensure that it uses its
existing organisations, such as Connexions to distribute information
on apprenticeships. Experience of organisations such as Connexions
greatly varies across the country and efforts should be made to
ensure that quality is more uniform.
Any money distributed to schools should be ring-fenced
or administered externally through existing agencies. We also
do not believe that information, advice and guidance is effective
when administered internally in schools and colleges as teachers
have a tendency to encourage young people to stay on academic
routes rather than equally valuable vocational ones. British society
currently has a natural prejudice against vocational routes, which
encourages teachers to only push the less academically inclined
down vocational routes when in reality some apprenticeships, such
as those in high-tech engineering firms are equally as challenging
as applied academic routes, and require highly able young people.
Evidence suggests that this problem is exacerbated
in with school sixth forms. As schools and colleges get money
per student, year 12+ students are a very valuable commodity and
schools do not want to run the risk of loosing good students to
courses they do not run. Vocational courses are only promoted
to those who are not wanted back in 6th form hence the social
image of these courses is very low. This must be addressed.
More information should be provided to schools
at an earlier stage. Schools should be encouraged to identify
champions for apprenticeships among the staff and pupils, and
bring back pupils who have been successful as apprentices to speak
to youngsters and show that apprenticeships are a viable alternative.
The BCC believed that the reforms outlined by
Raising Expectations were an unnecessary part of a long history
of organisational change in Further Education by the Labour government.
Despite its faults, a slimmed down and less bureaucratic LSC would
have been the natural home for national co-ordination of apprenticeships.
While we appreciate that knowledge about apprenticeships
opportunities would be increased with a national service, businesses
are also worried about yet another bureaucratic agency, which
instead of making it easier for businesses to find an apprentice
actually complicates matters. Steps must be taken to ensure that
the service is as light touch as possible, and that it is integrated
into an existing agency to avoid costly creation and set up costs.
The design of the NAS must recognise the needs
of regional businesses, and must be firmly rooted locally.
The creation of a National Apprenticeship Service
must also take into account the existing strong relationships
between businesses and training providers. There is serious potential
for existing productive relationships to be irreparably damaged.
Ensuring that the quality of apprenticeships
is maintained is important to businesses. If quality is not maintained,
the government's attempts to increase the number of young people
undertaking apprenticeships will be unsuccessful in the medium
to long term, as firms will not get the skills they want from
apprenticeships, and young people will not want to undertake courses
which have little prospect of progression.
It is important that the external programme
element of apprenticeships is examined, as this will give the
apprentice clearer progression routes into promotion, further
employment, or higher qualifications. The basis of this should
be the NVQ system.
SMEs would find an over burdensome inspection
regime a disincentive to take on apprentices, although would want
the quality of training providers that they use to be of assured
high quality. Ensuring the quality of apprenticeships in what
is essentially a target driven culture is a challenge. There needs
to be an independent assessment on the quality of apprenticeships
preferably by industry experts. Any quality assurance and inspection
of the work-based elements of apprenticeships needs to come from
an impartial source which is in touch with the needs of the industry.
Part of ensuring quality is through the provision
of support for companies who take on apprenticeships. While large
companies have the resource to manage a complex apprenticeship
programme, smaller firms below 50, usually without HR or training
specialists will require further help to run high quality apprenticeships.
Any help given should focus on support rather than inspection
It is clear that for the government to meet
its target to increase the number of young people undertaking
apprenticeships, more employers must be encouraged to take apprentices
on. Government needs to increase awareness of the advantages of
apprenticeships among SMEs, while business has to be convinced
that the apprenticeship programme is robust and flexible enough
to meet its requirements. Business will be encouraged if they
believe that apprenticeship schemes are employer led and industry
focussed, and meet the needs of businesses, industry and the young
Businesses, especially SMEs, will require financial
incentives and support for taking on apprenticeships. When creating
an apprenticeship programme, employers are making an investment
in a young person from whom they will not see a return on until
year two or three of a programme. In light of this, additional
financial support in the first year of training could encourage
businesses to take on more apprentices. This is especially the
case for SMEs, for whom taking on apprenticeships is a large resource
investment in terms of both time and money.