Submission from the National Assembly
for Wales Enterprise and Learning Committee
INTERIM RESPONSE TO THE INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES,
SCIENCE & SKILLS SELECT COMMITTEE TO THE DRAFT APPRENTICESHIP
1. The UK Government's Department for Children,
Schools and Families, and Department for Innovation, Universities
and Skills, published the Draft Apprenticeships Bill on 16 July
2008. The draft Bill implements the proposals made in the strategy
World Class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills
for All (DIUS, 2008) and provides a statutory basis for the
apprenticeship programme. The consultation closed on 8 October
2. On 17 July, Phil Willis MP, Chair of
the House of Commons' Innovation, Universities, Science &
Skills Committee wrote to the Chair, inviting the Enterprise and
Learning Committee to present its views on the proposed legislation.
3. The Enterprise and Learning Committee
scrutinised John Griffiths AM, the Deputy Minister for Skills,
and David Rosser, Director, and Leighton Jenkins, Assistant Director
Policy, of CBI Wales, at its meeting on 24 September 2008. The
witnesses provided written memoranda, which are attached at Annex
1. The transcript of oral evidence is at Annex 2.
4. The Bill is currently drafted to apply
in England only. In his written memorandum the Deputy Minister
Although the Bill as drafted is for England only,
it is intended that the provisions of the Bill will be subsumed
in the 4th session of the learning and Skills Bill at which stage
it is possible that references and amendments to Wales might be
We found this confusing. Given there is a further
reference in the Deputy Minister's memorandum to the "Learning
and Skills Bill", we sought clarification as to whether the
"Education and Skills Bill" would be renamed or whether
officials had confused that Bill with the draft Learning and Skills
(Wales) Measure 2008 or other legislation elsewhere. No answer
was forthcoming in oral evidence. The Deputy Minister undertook
to provide written clarification.
5. The absence of this information precluded
a meaningful discussion regarding the mechanism by which the Welsh
clauses would be incorporated into the Bill.
6. The Deputy Minister's written submission
also referred to a letter sent by the First Minister to UK Government
Ministers requesting provisions in future legislation on skills.
The provision requested would:
allow for co-operation between the
Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State in relation to the
specification of apprenticeship standards;
contain order making powers for the
Welsh Ministers to give effect to the specification of apprenticeship
standards in Wales;
allow for order making powers for
the Welsh Ministers to authorise a body to issue apprenticeship
allow for either the Welsh Ministers
themselves, or for the Welsh Ministers to be able to authorise
a body, to issue apprenticeship certificates and charge fees;
allow the proposal to clarify the
meaning and status of apprenticeship agreements entered into in
connection with a recognised apprenticeship framework, to apply
7. Retaining the current arrangements for
apprenticeship standards and approval, fees, and the apprenticeship
contract in England and Wales would be sensible. We would agree
with the Deputy Minister that different standards should not operate
across the borders to avoid difficulties for employers and individuals.
CBI Wales shared our view. However in the interests of timely
and effective parliamentary scrutiny, we wish to examine the draft
legislation. We are grateful to the Deputy Minister for his assurance
that he will do his utmost to ensure that that happens.
8. We are of the opinion that this legislative
approach is unsatisfactory and does not reflect well on the UK
Government or the Welsh Assembly Government or indeed the current
constitutional settlement. We have therefore sought clarification
from the Deputy Minister regarding the passage of the Bill and
the response to the Welsh Assembly Government's request for provisions
relating to the apprenticeship programme in Wales. We wish to
scrutinise the Deputy Minister again on these matters as soon
9. We draw these matters to the attention
of the Chair and Members of the Innovation, Universities, Science
& Skills Committee, who, given the obfuscation of normal procedure,
will already be aware that they will be asked to consider a much
amended Bill at some future date. We place on record our concerns
that a precedent for the introduction of Welsh clauses to Bills
may be developing, given our Legislature's recent experience of
the Planning Bill, where Welsh provisions amended the Bill at
a stage too late to allow for parliamentary scrutiny in Wales.
10. We observe that there is some evidence
of success in developing apprenticeships in Wales given the increase
in the number of apprentices and the completion rate of 50%, though
in some instances we are aware of a mismatch in supply and demand.
11. Whilst not wishing to downplay the importance
of large and medium-sized businesses to the economy in Wales and
driving up skills' levels, we have previously examined evidence
regarding levels of training and development in SMEs and are not
convinced that many know where and how to access support. We are
also concerned that the current pressure on costs may lead some
hard-pressed SMEs to offer less training. The Deputy Minister
acknowledged the current challenge of reaching and engaging SMEs.
12. We are interested in the results of
the shared apprenticeships pilot, which involved a number of SMEs
coming together to provide an apprenticeship and look forward
to receiving the Government's evaluation. CBI Wales welcome shared
13. We are particularly concerned that the
importance of vocational education should be understood by all
providers and those who advise prospective apprentices, in order
to benefit the economy, employers and individuals. We look forward
to examining the Deputy Minister's proposals for a matching service
to be guided by Careers Wales.
14. We heard from CBI Wales about perceptions
that apprenticeships had frequently been considered as the route
for low achievers, whilst high achievers were directed to academe.
We requested firm evidence and details of case studies, but agree
with CBI Wales's view that Clause 23 of the draft Bill should
be strengthened to ensure that all young people are made aware
of the benefits of apprenticeships.
15. The Deputy Minister stated that he was
trying to align the Welsh baccalaureate with the apprenticeship
The issue of consistency emerges, since the Welsh baccalaureate
has not been implemented universally across Wales. We were told
that the Welsh Assembly Government's aim would be to operate a
system whereby credits obtained by pursuing the Welsh baccalaureate
would count towards the apprenticeship framework.
16. The Deputy Minister is seeking powers
through this legislation to introduce fees for some apprenticeships.
We realise that apprenticeships are heavily subsidised, but we
are anxious to ensure that employers are not disincentivised from
taking on apprentices, and that those who enter apprenticeships
will not be deterred from completing them.
17. As England and Wales' bodies, the SSCs
are closely involved with apprenticeships in Wales, given that
they draw up the apprenticeship frameworks. However they are currently
being relicensed by the UK Employment and Skills Board and the
Deputy Minister was unable to tell us when that process would
18. We wished to learn of how the Deputy
Minister was catering for people with disabilities who desired
to access apprenticeships. Given the Welsh Assembly Government's
policy of integrating disabled people into the workforce, the
Deputy Minister did not foresee a time when a quota might be introduced,
but he gave his commitment to equality of opportunity in employment.
19. Businesses frequently highlight that
they are unable to recruit staff with the necessary skills to
run and develop their businesses. We are aware that many employers
find that apprenticeships are college based and do not transfer
to the workplace. The Deputy Minster acknowledged that technical
certificates could be obtained without work experience.
We are also keen to ensure that the strongest possible encouragement
is given to businesses to participate in work experience.
20. In a knowledge economy, business needs
and demands change rapidly and we feel that it is important that
the apprenticeship frameworks are sufficiently flexible to adapt
to new requirements. CBI Wales articulated the frustration of
many employersToyota; EADS Defence and Security Systems
UK; among themwho are unable to "accurately map the
needs of their businessesparticularly where technology
changes rapidlyonto existing set apprenticeship frameworks".
We echo the view of CBI Wales that flexibility will be key to
the success of the apprenticeships programme.
26 Not printed; at Deputy Minister for Skills: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-committees/bus-committees-third1/bus-committees-third-els-home/bus-committees-third-els-agendas.htm?act=dis&id=97192&ds=10/2008 Back
Not printed; at CBI Wales: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-committees/bus-committees-third1/bus-committees-third-els-home/bus-committees-third-els-agendas.htm?act=dis&id=97374&ds=10/2008 Back
p.1, para. 1. Back
p.5, para 18. Back
p.8, para. 46. Back
p.25, para.204. Back
para. 21. Back
p.5, para. 10. Back
p.18, para 146. Back
p.12, para. 81. Back
p.20 para 165. Back