Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
6 OCTOBER 2008
Q40 Mr Cawsey: The draft Bill is
going to set up the National Apprenticeship Service. What are
the key issues that that service should concentrate on? For instance,
should they be the guardian of apprenticeship quality?
Mr Frost: I think the primary
role is to provide leadership and a clear statement of the importance
of apprenticeship, to take ownership and, as you say, put that
stamp on it.
Mr Wainer: In terms of whether
it will be a success, it really has to focus on helping employers
reduce the time they spend on bureaucracy, encouraging more young
people of all abilities to take an apprenticeship. Perhaps that
is where the clause in the Bill on careers advice really does
fall down. Rather than it improving careers advice in terms of
offering guidance to young people about apprenticeships, it will
just reinforce careers advisers' and teachers' prejudices that
already exist. What we have to do is make sure all young people
receive high quality advice and guidance on whether an apprenticeship
is good for them, not using the judgment of the teacher if that
is going to be "in the best interests", as I think the
Bill puts it, of the young person. It has to be more widespread
Ms Seaman: It is about having
a national benchmark and a national standard so that the apprenticeship
stands for something of high quality and it has an equivalence
with all the other options that a young person or an older person
might take and is equally respected. I see a lot of the NAS role
in terms of building that credibility, that brand and reputation
around apprenticeships so that they are valued by employers and
individuals alike and people get proper advice about the options
that are open to them.
Mr Jaffa: If it is going to have
any role to benefit our sector, it has to be what is in it for
the small businesses because they do want to take on apprenticeships.
In a recent survey, we found that only 5% of the people taking
on apprenticeships were aware of wage contribution on offer to
small businesses, which is a very, very low figure. It is that
awareness that is key. Whether it needs legislation I do not know
but, as long as awareness is raised, we will be happy.
Q41 Mr Cawsey: You spoke earlier
about bureaucracy, particularly for small businesses, in terms
of this but presumably you all agree that it is important that
some data is collected so that it can be analysed and made publicly
available to provide the sort of robust evidence that this is
a good scheme. To what extent should this National Apprenticeship
Service be collecting data?
Mr Jaffa: We have always struggled
with getting apprentices to complete the course. The data on completion
levels, particularly in the micro sector for those under 10 employees,
will be very beneficial for us.
Mr Frost: I clearly understand
the need for data but I think this is one of the issues about
bureaucracy. As long as we are clear who is collecting the data
and why and firms are not being bombarded by a whole host of different
agencies at national, regional and local level, then that is understood.
Ms Seaman: I think the data is
critical, not only in terms of understanding what is going on
but building credibility. We need to know that completion rates
are improving and I think that comes back to fitness for purpose
of frameworks and getting the delivery right. If we get all that
right, the completion rates will increase.
Q42 Mr Cawsey: The completion rate
does not necessarily equate to improving quality, does it?
Ms Seaman: I believe it does because
you have to have a quality framework for someone to complete if
you have all the agreements in place.
Mr Wainer: I agree with David.
I think data collection is important as long as it does not place
undue burdens on the businesses involved but at the moment I think
the quality of data we have around apprenticeships is pretty poor.
From a policy perspective, it is very difficult.
Q43 Mr Cawsey: It is planned that
there will be a national matching service which there has been
some comment about. To what extent is business enthusiastic about
the national service or would you prefer more localised arrangements?
Mr Jaffa: The idea of a matching
service would be what a Group Training Association was there for,
so if it is going to make any point make it one and not two different
things for a small business to understand.
Mr Frost: Particularly small and
medium sized businesses operate in a local labour market. That
matching is going to have to be done at local level.
Ms Seaman: We have yet to see
how it works but I think it would have to be local based on local
areas and local needs.
Mr Wainer: I agree.
Q44 Chairman: All of you started
by making it clear that you felt that, first of all, apprenticeships
would only work if in fact there was strong engagement by employers.
In other words, it was an experience led apprenticeship scheme.
I think you all subscribe to that. What are your views about programme
led apprenticeships which are delivered through training providers
colleges? Do they have a place?
Mr Frost: We are absolutely clear.
We believe for those apprenticeship schemes to work they must
be employer led.
Q45 Chairman: End of story?
Mr Frost: Yes.
Mr Jaffa: We would agree with
Mr Wainer: I think just increasing
apprenticeship numbers through programme led apprenticeships is
not going to do anyone any good. We have to make sure the scheme
really does deliver to employers and young people.
Ms Seaman: Our employers would
say that they need to be work based and in the workplace to make
Q46 Ian Stewart: If it is to be employer
led, as you all consistently argue, how are you going to guarantee
that employers are committed to it and contribute to it? How do
you maintain standards?
Mr Wainer: I do not think flexibility
and quality are mutually exclusive. Mr Boswell asked how do we
develop a strong apprenticeship brand. I think brands develop
because people are confident they deliver quality and value for
money. If a young person can see that an apprenticeship is preparing
them well for a future career, is developing those wider employability
skills, that is how the brands will develop. That is where young
people and their parents will be confident that an apprenticeship
is a good option for them.
Q47 Dr Iddon: The employers have
not always been very positive about employing apprentices, have
they? I can remember a time when I was responsible for a direct
labour organisation. We had 42 apprentices for the construction
industry. The construction industry itself had very few apprentices
at that time. They relied on somebody like us lending out our
apprentices to them after we had trained them.
Mr Wainer: It comes back to Matthew's
point. Employers are not there to educate young people. We need
to ensure that there are more young people of all abilities, not
just perhaps those deemed by teachers and careers advisers as
less suitable for the academic route. If we get a higher quality
of applicants into a lot of these apprenticeship schemes, I think
a lot more employers will be interested in getting involved.
Q48 Ian Stewart: Did I hear you right?
Employers are not there to educate people?
Mr Wainer: No. They are there
to train people. There is a frustration that employers are delivering
literacy and numeracy training that really should have been sorted
out at school.
Chairman: On that note, could I thank
Richard, Anne, David and Matthew very much indeed for starting
us off this afternoon.
3 Further education Back