Supplementary submission from the Trade
Union Congress (TUC)
The TUC welcomes the introduction of Apprenticeship
certificates with a national brand and format as outlined in World
Class Apprenticeships. This is an important way to recognise the
achievements of apprentices and also build more widespread awareness
of Apprenticeships as a high quality pathway. Apprenticeship certificates
should be established in a way that clarifies progression pathways
from Apprenticeships into higher education.
However to make this work, it is also important
to ensure that all Apprenticeships are viewed as high quality
options. This might require the levelling up of some programmes.
Other aspects of the draft Apprenticeships Bill such as Apprenticeship
standards and the approval process for Apprenticeship frameworks
are important in this respect.
The TUC would also like to see the Apprenticeships
certificate linked to the development of Licence to Practice arrangements,
as outlined in the Queens speech in November 2007. This is important
for raising demand for skills and building the skill base of the
The process for approving Apprenticeship frameworks
is important in ensuring that frameworks meet the needs of industry,
but also the needs of learners. Approvals of Apprenticeship frameworks
should be a lever for improving quality. Sector Skills Councils
are well placed to develop Apprenticeship frameworks, but trade
unions should be involved in this process given their experience
and expertise in identifying industry skills needs and ensuring
quality. This should be recognised either in the primary legislation
or underpinning regulations.
The TUC has supported the expansion of the areas
covered in the Apprenticeships Blueprint (to be renamed Apprenticeship
standards) and giving the standards a statutory underpinning.
The TUC welcomes the introduction of a power for the Secretary
of State to direct the LSC to prepare a draft specification of
apprenticeship standards. The TUC would welcome a clear commitment
from the Government that this power will be used at an early stage.
The commitment in World Class Apprenticeships
that unions would be consulted on the new version of the Blueprint
(now Apprenticeship standards) was welcome. The legislation notes
that the Council must `consult such persons as appear to it appropriate'.
However the TUC believes that either the legislation itself, or
the regulations should explicitly identify the types of groups
which should be consulted, including trade unions.
It is important that clarity is achieved in
identifying the required learning that forms an Apprenticeship
framework. In addition to requiring a knowledge based element,
competency based element, key skills and employment rights and
responsibilities, the TUC believes that clear progression routes
and a reasonable minimum time for off-workstation learning time
should also be included. It is not clear from the draft bill that
these are required aspects of the Apprenticeship standards.
It is important that employment rights and responsibilities
(ERR) continue to be included as required areas of study in all
Apprenticeships. The required elements within ERR are currently
equality of opportunity and health and safety, although the content
and assessment is the responsibility of Sector Skills Councils.
Given the role of Apprenticeships as preparing learners for the
world of work, there should a more inclusive approach to employment
rights and responsibilities that makes inclusion of basic employment
rights mandatory, including the right to join a trade union. The
TUC produces materials in these areas, including A Better Way
to Work, which include information on employment rights and
responsibilities designed for those on Young Apprenticeships and
work experience placements. It might be useful to consider how
this work could be expanded and linked to Apprenticeships.
The current Apprenticeships blueprint allows
that the key skills components of Apprenticeships might be at
level 1 for an Apprenticeship, and level 2 for an Advanced Apprenticeships.
In other words, the minimum level of key skills as set out in
the current Apprenticeship Blueprint is one level below the relevant
NVQ. This should be reconsidered in revising the blueprint and
developing Apprenticeship Standards, as this seems out of step
with the NVQ level within the Apprenticeship framework and may
give the appearance of lowering the quality of the framework.
It could also have implications for the work in developing progression
pathways to higher education.
As the draft bill is currently constituted,
it might be interpreted that if an Apprenticeship does not meet
all of the standards, it can cease to be considered an Apprenticeship.
If this is the case, steps must be introduced to ensure that this
does not cause a detriment to the learner.
The TUC had supported the principle established
in the Flett v Matheson case by the Court of Appeal that where
an employer does not wish to continue to provide an Apprenticeship
place there should be an obligation to try and find an alternative
placement. Apprentices sacrifice earnings in order to develop
their skills and therefore should have some guarantee that they
are able to complete their programme. Employers shouldn't be able
to end an Apprenticeship without taking some steps to ensure that
the apprentice completes their training.
The TUC believes that the intent of section
18 needs to be clarified, in order to make it clear that the intention
is that apprentices are protected against an employer making a
change to an apprentice's status without their knowledge. However
it needs to be clearly articulated that if this is the case, the
apprentice continues to be protected under an ordinary contract
of employment, with the requisite unfair dismissal protections.
Further, the TUC would also argue that it is not sufficient for
an employer to provide written notice of variation of an apprenticeship
agreement. Rather, any variation should only be with the agreement
of the apprentice.
It is welcome that the proposed Apprenticeship
Agreements is to set out both the on the job and learning away
from the workstation that will be delivered, the job role an apprentice
will be qualified to hold upon completion, and the supervision
an apprentice will receive throughout the period of an Apprenticeship.
These should be set out in section 16(2) in order to give to give
enabling power through legislation.
In relation to Apprenticeship Agreements, the
TUC would oppose any changes to established employment law (in
addition to changes in relation to Flett v Matheson) that apprentices
are deemed to have a contract of employment for the purposes of
the Employment Rights Act 1996 and other legislation. The TUC
accepts that an Apprenticeship Agreement could set out the hours
that apprentices are required to work. However, what is meant
by the term "effort" is not clearly defined. The TUC
would oppose the Apprenticeship Agreement placing additional or
more onerous duties on apprentices than are expected of employees
through implied and express terms contained in the average contract
of employment. The TUC is opposed to any weakening of apprentice
rights to unfair dismissal protection or any other employment
The TUC supports the introduction of mentors
for apprentices, as such additional support has often been identified
as a factor in successful Apprenticeships. Mentors are not specifically
mentioned in relation to the draft Bill, and the TUC hopes that
this important development is maintained. It is important that
the role of mentors is clearly outlined, what constitutes good
practice is firmly established and that mentors receive appropriate
training. For example good practice would usually include a principle
that a mentor should usually be a different person to the supervisor.
This is an area where the role of union learning representatives
(ULRs) could usefully be explored.
Further, the TUC would like to be involved in
the development of any model Apprenticeship Agreement.
It is welcome that there will be a duty for
the LSC to promote Apprenticeships, and that there is a focus
on employer based places. However one of the challenges the TUC
identifies in implementing the Apprenticeships Bill, is ensuring
that the LSC has sufficient levers to boost high quality employer
places. The establishment of the National Apprenticeships Service
will be a useful step towards meeting this goal, however other
levers such as the use of public procurement to boost Apprenticeship
places would increase this capacity further. There should be urgent
clarification of the potential for the use of public procurement
in increasing Apprenticeships, as well as licence to practice
arrangements. The TUC is concerned about the proposals for "overtraining"
for the sector, because this approach is less likely to result
in a job at the end of it.
The bill sets out that schools will need to
ensure that any consideration of what careers advice would be
in the best interests of their pupils covers consideration of
whether it would be in their best interests to receive advice
which relates to Apprenticeships. This is welcome as it is important
that Apprenticeships are recognised as a high quality pathway
and presented as options to students. However it is important
to recognise that this does not require that Apprenticeships are
always mentioned as an option, although there is some argument
that they should. It is important that staff have appropriate
information and support, including on breaking down stereotyping.
The TUC is also concerned that league tables may create tensions
with these proposals.