Submission from the Edge Foundation
The draft Apprenticeships Bill underpins plans
set out in "World-class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent,
Building Skills for All", published by DIUS earlier this
Edge strongly supports Apprenticeships, which
provide a vital opportunity to learn by doing.
In this paper, we start by commenting on the
Bill as it stands. We then outline other steps which we believe
should be taken to secure the future success of apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship certificates, frameworks, standards
and agreements (clauses 1-20)
The Bill gives a statutory basis for arrangements
which are already in place and/or available to those who wish
to make use of them. As such, these provisions are largely symbolic.
We do support them, because it is important to raise the status
of apprenticeships. However, we are concerned that some employers
will be reluctant to complete formal agreements, as they were
when agreements were first introduced in the 1990s. If this happens,
Apprentices will need reassurance that they will still be able
to complete their Apprenticeship frameworks.
We are pleased that the draft Bill explicitly
extends to Crown Servants and Parliamentary staff. As we note
below, we believe much more needs to be done to expand apprenticeships
in all parts of the public sector.
Duties of the LSC and the Secretary of State (clauses
21 and 22)
The Government wishes to make apprenticeship
places available to every suitably-qualified young person who
wants one. This is very welcome.
Of course, the devil is in the detail. As presently
drafted, the Bill suggests that each young person should select
two sectors; the LSC should then make sure there is a suitable
apprenticeship available in one or both of these sectors within
reasonable travelling distance from the young person's home.
However, the Bill is deliberately silent on
a number of important points. "Sectors" will not be
defined by the Bill, but by the Secretary of State. It is not
clear whether sectors are to be defined broadlyeg "construction"or
narrowlyeg "bricklayer". We believe this should
be spelled out more clearly. Our recommendation would be for a
reasonably broad definition.
The meaning of the word "reasonable"
is also unclear. The draft says:
"reasonable travel area", in relation
to a person, means:
(a) the specified area in which the person
(b) any other area within which it is reasonable
for the person's place of work, training or study to be located.
What is "reasonable" may depend on
distance, travelling time or the availability of public transport.
What is reasonable in a rural area might be different from what
is reasonable in an urban area. The word would even have different
meaning when applied to different sectors of the economy: for
example, it might be reasonable for apprenticeships in common
occupations (retail, hair and beauty and so on) to be offered
within a mile or two of home, but in less common occupations (say,
stonemasonry) it might be reasonable to expect the apprentice
to travel 40 miles. This is all far too vague, and could prove
highly contentious if the Bill proceeds as drafted.
Clause 21 also introduces minimum entry requirements
for Apprenticeships (which lead to a level 2 qualification) and
Advanced Apprenticeships (which lead to a level 3 qualification).
We see two problems with the way this part of the Bill has been
First, the Bill says that someone who has a
level 2 qualification (eg 5 GCSEs at A* to C) is, in effect, ineligible
for a level 2 Apprenticeship. We think this is fundamentally wrong.
In fact, we think this is the biggest single weakness in the whole
of the draft Bill.
Let's take the example of a young person who
has achieved grade C GCSE passes insayEnglish, Maths,
Design and Technology, Music and Geography. She now wants to be
an Apprentice car mechanic. The skills and knowledge needed for
success as a car mechanic are very different from the skills and
knowledge she has gained by studying for GCSEs. She should have
every right to enrol on a level 2 Apprenticeship if that is what
she wants to do, and especially if that is the only option currently
available in her local area.
In our view, it should be possible to move on
from an Apprenticeship to an Advanced Apprenticeshipin
fact, this should be strongly encouraged. However, talented young
people should not be prevented from enrolling on a (level 2) Apprenticeship
if that's what best meets their needs.
Secondly, the Bill accidentally creates a no-mans-land
between Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. As drafted,
this clause means young people who hold a level 2 qualification
and level 1 functional skills are ineligible for either an Apprenticeship
or an Advanced Apprenticeship. This cannot be right!
Thirdly, we are concerned about opportunities
for young people who have not yet achieved a level 1 qualification
and/or functional skills at level 1. Clause 21 does not mention
this group of young people at all, and accordingly they will not
have the same statutory right to work-based training as people
who do have level 1 qualifications.
This affects a significant number of young people,
including some learners with learning difficulties and disabilities.
It seems very surprising that the Government gives this group
such a low priority. Accordingly, we believe the Bill should provide
a right to pre-Apprenticeship training for all young people not
yet qualified for a full Apprenticeship.
Assistance and support in relation to apprenticeship
places (Clause 22)
We fully support plans for an Apprenticeship
Careers education (Clause 23)
There has been some growth in the numbers of
Apprenticeships (leading to a level 2 qualification) in recent
years, but the same isn't true of Advanced Apprenticeships (level
Young people who might once have left school
at 16 to start an Advanced Apprenticeship are staying at school
or college instead.
The single biggest challenge is information,
advice and guidance. In principle, therefore, we therefore welcome
clause 23. This amends section 43 of the Education Act 1997, which
requires state secondary schools to provide all pupils with a
programme of careers education.
However, the Clause does not go far enough.
It simply requires schools to consider whether it is in the best
interests of their pupils to receive advice about apprenticeships.
Schools should not have this discretion: they should be required
to provide information and advice about apprenticeships to all
pupils and their parents or guardians.
At present, nowhere near enough is done to promote
Apprenticeships to young people, parents and teachers. In fact,
many teachers actively discourage bright young people from taking
In addition to providing information in print
and on-line, we believe young people should be able to find out
about Apprenticeships straight from the horse's mouth. In its
report, "Inspiration and Aspiration: Realising our Potential
in the 21st Century", the Skills Commission recommended that:
The Government must make sure that people have
access to websites where they can find information about training
routes and use forums to discuss different careers with those
who have experienced them.
Better still, every young person should meet
Apprentices and employers while they are still at school, as well
as visiting colleges and other learning providers, so they can
see and hear for themselves exactly what it means to be an Apprentice
in the 21st century.
Enable more young people to start before the age
Last year, Ofsted published a glowing report
on the success of Young Apprenticeships, which enable young people
to get started on a genuinely practical approach to learning from
the age of 14. Ofsted said:
Of the 311 students | in the partnerships inspected
in 2006-07, only 17 withdrew.
The students were highly motivated, well behaved,
enthusiastic and enjoyed the programme.
Students in one partnership, which provided retail
as a vocational area, could not stop saying how good their experience
was and how different it was from school.
When the LSC is abolished in 2010, local authorities
will take over responsibility for funding Young Apprenticeships.
Anecdotally, we hear some local authorities plan to close Young
Apprenticeship programmes, on the basis that Diplomas are a viable
(and cheaper) alternative. They're not. Diplomas are not vocational
programmes and don't provide the same access to practical learning
in the workplace. We believe that Young Apprenticeships should
be expanded significantly over the next five to 10 years, and
The Bill should provide an entitlement
to a Young Apprenticeship for any 14-16 year old who wants one.
Make it easier for Apprentices to get placements
in small businesses and voluntary organisations
Many small firms and voluntary organisations
find it difficult to guarantee continuous employment. Others can
offer somebut not allof the experience an Apprentice
needs to complete a qualification.
In these circumstances, it should be possible
for young people to move from one employer to another during their
Apprenticeship. One way to achieve this is for Apprentices to
be employed by a third partya kind of employment agencywho
would arrange each placement in turn.
Working with the Young Foundation, Edge is providing
seed-corn funding for a Group Apprenticeship Scheme in London,
to be run jointly by two colleges (City of Westminster and Westminster
Kingsway), two third sector organisations (Vital and PDT) and
an Australian group apprenticeship provider, Central West Group
The Government should support Group Apprenticeship
Schemes in all parts of the country, learning from experience
in Australia and early experience of the London scheme. Accordingly:
The Bill should place a responsibility
on the Secretary of State to encourage and support the formation
of Group Apprenticeship Schemes in England.
The Government should also consider wage subsidies
for small and micro-businesses, recognising the extra burden small
firms face when taking on Apprentices. Wage subsidies have already
been offered as part of the Train to Gain programme for adultsso
why not for Apprentices?
Make it easier for Apprentices to get placements
in the public sector
All parts of the public sectorgovernment
departments, local authorities, Non-Departmental Public Bodies,
the NHS, and so oncan and should take on very many more
Apprentices, across a whole range of occupations including business
administration, customer service, health and care, landscape gardening,
electrical maintenance, engineering, landscape gardeningeven
hairdressing (in council-run care homes). All parts of the public
sector should be set a target to recruit Apprentices.
The Bill should place a duty on the
Secretary of State to set targets for the recruitment of Apprentices
by public sector employers.
Offer the right Programme-Led Apprenticeships
Programme-Led Apprenticeships (PLAs) have had
a bad press, which is only partly deserved.
The theory is that a young person should start
a full-time course at college or with a work-based learning provider.
This provides a basic level of knowledge and understanding, making
it easier to become a full Apprentice with a local employer. There
are several benefits: it helps young people decide if they've
made the right choice, and it helps employers recruit young people
who have already grasped some of the basics, such as safe ways
The problem arises if young people don't move
on from college. If the whole PLA is delivered in college, the
lack of work experience presents a big barrier later on.
The LSC has acknowledged this. We welcome their
approach, which is to limit PLAs to those programmes which are
a genuinely valuable stepping stone into a full-time Apprenticeship,
which might be termed pre-apprenticeship training.
The Bill should define a pre-apprenticeship,
or enable the Secretary of State to do so by order.
Make it easier to move on to Higher Education
It should be a lot easier for Apprentices to
move on to higher education if they want.
There has been some progress: experiments with
so-called Higher Apprenticeships show it is possible to get higher
qualifications, including Foundation Degrees, via apprenticeships.
Two problems are holding back progress. First,
funding for qualifications above level 3 falls between two stoolsthe
LSC and HEFCE. There needs to be a clear and separate funding
stream for Higher Apprenticeships which provide a work-based route
to qualifications at level 4 and above. It may be possible to
achieve this without legislation, but for the avoidance of doubt:
The Bill should define the term "Higher
Apprenticeship" or enable the Secretary of State to do so
The Bill should amend the Learning
and Skills Act 2000 to enable the Learning and Skills Council
to provide financial support for Higher Apprenticeships.
The second problem is that some Advanced Apprenticeships
don't prepare young people for degree courses. They are an excellent
way of developing the skills and knowledge needed for work, but
HE calls for additional skillsessay writing, research,
that sort of thing. Some degrees also call for more prior knowledge
of maths, science or other so-called "academic" subjects.
This presents a real barrier. Admissions tutors
are reluctant to offer places to Apprentices because they think
they will struggle in their first year.
The solution must be to offer Access courses
to any apprentice who wants one. Access courses already exist,
of course, and give people the extra boost they need before embarking
on a full HE course.
The Bill should entitle any Apprentice
to take an Access to HE course either at the same time as their
Apprenticeship or at any time afterwards.
These steps will make it much easier for Apprentices
to move on to higher education. That is a benefit in its own right,
but it also has the advantage of proving that Apprenticeships
are a genuine alternative to A levels, Diplomas and other full-time