Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
6 OCTOBER 2008
Q20 Ian Stewart: Do we need a new
Act of Parliament for that?
Mr Wainer: There are a lot of
issues around apprenticeships that will not be solved by legislation.
Anne picked up the point of bureaucracy and red tape. That does
not need legislation to solve the problems there.
Q21 Chairman: Ian's question is absolutely
right. What is in this Bill that needs legislation, that we could
not do through good regulation or discussing with employers?
Mr Wainer: I think it comes back
to my first point around ensuring that the frameworks are fit
for purpose and allowing employers to have that strong input because
at the moment the process is that the Sector Skills Councils assess
the framework and other organisations, other businesses, cannot
have that strong input.
Chairman: You are an optimist.
Q22 Dr Gibson: I thought the world
now was a world where individuals had several jobs throughout
their lives. There was this old fashioned idea that you went into
the shipyards in the upper Clyde and you were there for life.
It does not happen that way any more. People maybe have four or
five jobs, go to Europe or elsewhere, and their skills change.
You would have an apprenticeship 10 times in a year to suit the
particular job that you move to. Is that not the world today?
People move about more than the old fashioned idea of one job
Mr Frost: I agree. I think that
is why this has to be part of a framework. It has to be clear
with the ability to progress for example from doing an apprenticeship
through to doing a degree and beyond. It should not just be viewed
Q23 Mr Boswell: Can I ask a bit more
about the details in apprenticeship agreements and perhaps a little
bit more about the relationship between the frameworks and the
agreements themselves? Who is going to specify that kind of thing?
Is it going to be the employers? Is it going to need approval
by the National Apprenticeship Service or whatever? That will
lead on to a question about bureaucracy but let us just deal with
the nuts and bolts. Who is in charge of the delivery of the apprenticeship
agreements and then ultimately of their implementation?
Mr Jaffa: To be honest with you,
I cannot give you the answer as to who we think is in charge of
the system. That is why we are probably at the lower end in terms
of enthusiasm for this kind of Bill because unfortunately, as
small businesses, we do not know how to engage with this system.
We feel that when these agreements are made they are very geared
towards large and medium sized businesses and not the micro, small
businesses. We have a case study in the south west where a consortium
of small and large employers was trying to get an engineering
qualification agreed and it was going through for about a year
but at the last minute was pulled because the local colleges did
not feel they could agree to the particular issues that the small
businesses were asking for. This is just one case study. Small
businesses will find it hardest through this system to get any
kind of accreditation.
Q24 Mr Boswell: Can I bring in my
other question which is about off the job training, time in college
or whatever? Clearly that is important and nobody is saying we
should not have any. How much is that, in your book, going to
be specified or does it need to be specified in order to establish
the external credibility of the apprenticeship, or do you really
want that to be something which is very much a matter for employer
Mr Jaffa: The idea of the old
fashioned day release is not what we are looking for. We do agree
with time spent in local colleges as long as you are employed
within a business. We have no problem there. We are fine with
that as long as it is not the traditional day release. It has
to be locally provided, locally sourced. The brokerage is showing
that it is for the needs to be relevant for a small business,
whether it be a specific time, or locally based or through bite
sized chunks, not taking a day out of the organisation.
Q25 Mr Boswell: Can I ask the three
others now to respond on the bureaucracy point and this tension
again between detail and general specification?
Mr Wainer: The Bill does not detail
what apprenticeship standards should look like.
Q26 Mr Boswell: Should it?
Mr Wainer: No. I think it should
be down to the individual employer to determine that with the
apprentice. Of course it has to be a balance between that flexibility
and high quality experience for the apprentice. That will entail
some off the job time but, as Matthew said, that has to be delivered
flexibly. It is not just going down every Friday afternoon to
your local college.
Q27 Mr Boswell: Are you at all worried
that the NAS is going to come along with a very prescriptive model?
What worries me is that there are lots of good intensions and
a lot of enthusiasm, but it might just all fall foul on bureaucracy
and that is slightly the tenor of the evidence we have received.
Are you rehearsing that as a doubt and worry?
Mr Wainer: I think that is a concern,
Mr Frost: The NAS has to show
real added value. It may well be that it needs some form of regional
structure, engaging with business and those other agencies.
Q28 Mr Boswell: It is not an email
to Coventry, as it were, that is suddenly going to produce the
answer to the problem. It is a local dialogue?
Mr Frost: Yes.
Ms Seaman: Can I make a point
about time out of the business, because I do not think it is always
necessary. It depends on the particular apprenticeship, the particular
business and the individual involved. You must remember that these
apprenticeships are also valuable for adults already working within
businesses. Therefore, going to college may not always be appropriate.
Certainly we have seen examples of apprenticeships being delivered
wholly within a business. Obviously there is time out within the
business to do particular aspectsone or two hoursbut
on the job, in the workplace, is the best way for them to be delivered.
Q29 Mr Boswell: You would see a central
edict that there had to be so much time off the job as being over
specification and inappropriate?
Ms Seaman: The appropriate specification
is around the blueprint in terms of what a national benchmark
framework should look like. Then it depends very much on the sector
and the businesses involved as to how it gets delivered and designed.
Q30 Mr Boswell: Towards the objective?
Ms Seaman: Yes.
Q31 Chairman: What confuses me with
your responses and with Matthew's responses to a large extent
is, if you want employers to be the determinant of what an apprenticeship
scheme should be and what goes into it, why on earth should the
taxpayer fund it?
Ms Seaman: That is a challenge
and I do not think all employers necessarily expect it to be funded.
Certainly that is not the first question that employers often
ask. With young people, certainly 16 to 18 year olds, there is
an element of ongoing training and development, of gearing them
up for work and whether that is in a specific sector that serves
them for their lifetime or it develops a transferable skill, the
employability skills, through that apprenticeship that they need
throughout their lifetime, I think there is an expectation that
that would be supported or subsidised. I think it depends on an
individual case basis around adult apprenticeships, for example,
depending what the circumstances are coming in perhaps from unemployment
for a long period, getting onto the ladder. They need support
and help and they may need additional support in the business.
The business cannot always carry that full cost so there might
be an argument for subsidy and so on. It will depend on sectors
Q32 Dr Iddon: Group Training Associations
are as old as The Beatles. They date back to the sixties and they
are very strong in the engineering sector. I have a figure of
88 of these charitable organisations operating in that sector.
Can they adopt the Heineken principle? In other words, will they
reach the sectors that have never been reached by Group Training
Associations as a result of this Bill turning into an Act?
Chairman: Be positive here.
Mr Jaffa: We are supportive of
Group Training Associations. I did not know they had been around
as long as The Beatles. The Group Training Associations are good
if a small business gets involved and it can be joined by other
small business and there is a network of small businesses. However,
we feel that the large businesses will be dominating and have
the best choice and will pick and choose who they want in terms
of apprenticeships. It is very hard for a small business to say
which ones it wants. More often than not, they will get maybe
the last pickings really and maybe that is the reason why in particular
graduates and high level candidates go into larger businesses
before they go into smaller businesses. Small businesses are prepared
to pay for apprenticeships. It is just the idea of literacy and
numeracy skills that they are not prepared to pay for, but we
are in effect calling for an increase in the national minimum
wage for apprenticeships that was set last week. We feel they
should be paid more as that will increase completion levels.
Q33 Dr Iddon: Are you saying therefore
that not all sectors of the economy will have access to a Group
Mr Jaffa: We do not think so.
I am yet to be convinced on that particular one.
Q34 Dr Iddon: You obviously agree
that if a young man or woman is looking for an apprenticeship
they are not going to choose a small company first, are they?
Mr Jaffa: That is the problem
with the system.
Q35 Dr Iddon: How do we encourage
apprentices to go into small companies? Do we offer something
Mr Jaffa: I do not want to get
into party politics but I do think a certain amount given before
the apprentice signs up to encourage them to go into a small business,
or an amount given to a small business to take on an apprentice,
might be more of an incentive for that small business to advertise
or be more forthcoming in terms of who they are going to attract.
Mr Frost: The question lies at
the heart of the issues. In essence, in many parts of the UK there
are no large businesses so the only option for young people is
to go and work for a small company. The only way that this will
work is by ensuring that apprenticeships are seen as a high quality
qualification because they are not. We have the position where
vocational training is not seen as being the first option for
either parents, teachers or young people and therefore I think
we will see the emergence of a number of innovative ways of delivering
training, getting small companies to come together to provide
that. I think a Group Training Association may well lie at the
heart of that.
Q36 Dr Iddon: Do you think there
has to be a financial incentive to do that or will it happen without?
Mr Frost: It is interesting. If
you look at the development of Group Training Associations when
were set up, there were clearly financial incentives to do that.
They may well be needed again, yes.
Q37 Mr Wilson: There has been some criticism
of the quality of some apprenticeships in recent years. In the
new structure of things, if an employer does not have the time
to supervise and train an apprentice properly, should they have
access to government funds?
Mr Frost: No. If it is a programme
that is not part of the framework, then I do not think they should
have access to funds.
Q38 Chairman: At the heart of what
we are trying to get at is this issue about growing numbers and
equating that to quality, because simply growing numbers will
not do anybody any great service.
Mr Frost: Absolutely. If the Government
simply wants to go to a relentless increase in volumes, this will
not work. The reason why large numbers of people have now gone
off for an academic route with the huge expansion of higher education
is because apprenticeships have not been seen as quality alternatives.
Simply to go for volume at the expense of quality will just consign
this programme to the dustbin.
Q39 Mr Wilson: Would therefore a
better progression from apprenticeship into higher education be
particularly attractive to get more people to become apprentices?
Mr Frost: Unquestionably. They
want to be seen as being part of a natural route to move on.
Mr Wainer: We have to see that
moving into higher education is not just about going on to do
three year full time undergraduate degrees. Higher education is
much more flexible than that. You have companies like BT offering
level four apprenticeships which deliver foundation degrees, so
I think we have to get ourselves away from the mindset that progression
to higher education is not just going to university for three
years full time.
Ms Seaman: One of the critical
things here is getting that agreement right up front so that everybody
is clear about their expectations in terms of the employer, the
provider and the individual. If everybody is clear about that
up front, I think that will assist in terms of all the expectations
of the people involved to improve the quality and make sure that
some of those things you talked about do not arise. If they do,
then the funding is not available.
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