Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 60-79)


6 OCTOBER 2008

  Q60  Ian Stewart: Martin, do you think there is a potential for the trade union learning reps themselves who have an interest in the training side aspects also becoming trainers?

  Mr Dunford: Absolutely and I am sure some do, I would guess. It is industry experience which is necessary to build the capacity.

  Q61  Chairman: Can I ask you something very briefly before I move on to Dr Gibson. I raised the issue about programme-led apprenticeships with the last panel and you have alluded to that in questions from both Roberta and Ian. In large parts of the country, and I am talking particularly about rural areas, if you go down to the South West, Devon and Cornwall, or go to my part of the country, North Yorkshire, there are not major employers and they certainly are not in a lot of different trades. Is not the only way we can satisfy some of that demand to have programme-led apprenticeships, and how are you going to robustly defend that because all the employers dismissed it?

  Ms Mogel: Part of the problem is programme-led apprenticeships are different in different parts of the country and therefore do not have an entity, a brand that an employer can recognise. However, if you say to an employer, particularly a smaller or a rural employer, "Would you prefer to take somebody who already has some employability skills or somebody who does not have any?", they are undoubtedly going to say, "I'd prefer to take somebody with some level of skills", and that is what programme-led apprenticeships were supposed to be about. I think they do fill that need and that is why the Association of Colleges has put forward the proposal that there should be an access to apprenticeships rather than calling it "Programme-led", which was a bit of a misnomer, which says it prepares me to undertake an apprenticeship. It fills two other gaps: one is there are groups of young people who are not ready for work but would like to go down the apprenticeship route and this would give them a tailored programme rather than them having to do a programme which did not have them in mind; the second category it could fill is the transition between the foundation learning tier and an apprenticeship which probably will need something to fill that gap in between and, again, an access to apprenticeships would be that route. I think the concept is fine, but I am not sure necessarily we have sold that concept very well.

  Q62  Chairman: Thank you very much. Martin, very briefly.

  Mr Dunford: There are two sorts of programme-led apprenticeships and apparently the LSC[7] was only allowed to have one extra name. There are those that are called "College-based" and there are those that are in work. The Association of Learning Providers is a broad church, so organisations, charities like Rathbone, YMCA and Nacro are all members. There is a role for what I would call a "work located apprenticeship" and I will try and promote that term, where it is not employed status, the vast majority of Apprenticeships are employed status. ALP are quite anti the whole college-based system but, as Sara said, we have not talked about the NEET[8] Group and we have not talked about how you get into apprenticeships. There are plenty of work-ready people who are not Level 2 ready; there is a big gap there. We have got the Entry to Employment Programme which is very good if it is done well. We are not sure what is going to happen to that under the foundation learning tier, which is very qualification based, so that whole entry into apprenticeships and then progression is an issue. This is all déja" vu. In 2003 there was an end-to-end review of modern apprenticeships and all the same things came up, progression, portability, a matching service or a UCAS[9] style attempt. At the other end of the spectrum we have people like BT and JTL who take on 10%, 20% of the applicants, so what happens to the other 80 or 90%, no-one is picking those up and saying, "Okay, you didn't get through on that apprenticeship, have you considered this option?", and we are worried that they just get dropped. There is a role for a work-located, if you like, in a specified and controlled way.

  Chairman: Thank you for that. I think it is important to get your comments on the record here.

  Q63  Dr Gibson: The Secretary of State, whoever, can approve core elements for every apprenticeship. Should these core requirements have elements which allow you to get into higher education, which you are very keen on, because I find it very difficult to think that Chris Patten at Oxford will ever accept the qualifications from apprenticeships? What are the core elements: is it Latin? What is it which is going to get people into higher education? What do you mean by higher education? It sounds good and I agree with it in principle, but let us get through the language and say, "What does it actually mean?"

  Mr Dunford: There are foundation degrees now, for example, and at our last conference Foundation Degree Forward came and gave a talk and so on. Someone mentioned CBI about Level 4 apprenticeships. It is that technical, vocational higher education. They are not polytechnics any more, they are all universities and Chris Patten at Oxford might be at one end and maybe he never will, but I am sure other people might include this.

  Q64  Dr Gibson: He will not!

  Mr Dunford: I am sure he will not! Maybe you will at East Anglia or whatever, I do not know. Higher education is this catch-all phrase for beyond Level 4.

  Q65  Dr Gibson: What are the core elements?

  Mr Dunford: I am not sure. The underpinning knowledge is certainly very important.

  Q66  Dr Gibson: Sara, what do you think the core elements might be for every apprenticeship?

  Ms Mogel: I do think there has to be something which is sector related, the underpinning knowledge that the Sector Skills Council along with some of the network of skills groups that the Association of Colleges has, the union learning reps and private training providers should be able to come in for each sector. There are certain core things which an apprentice at Level 2 or Level 3 should have and at Level 3 should allow them to go on to a Level 4 or a higher education course. Some of those are very clear now and we do have higher education apprentices, particularly in engineering, that is a very common route. We must not think they are the sorts of people who are going to go into full-time learning at higher education, they are much more likely to go down the foundation degree route. We have to remember that even now in higher education, large proportions, nearly half of the people who enter higher education go a vocational route now and some of those will be apprentices. The issue is they tend to be very specific sectors and they do not cross the whole of the sectors.

  Mr Wilson: I would agree with many of those comments. I do think it is important to recognise that Chris Patten does not speak for higher education.

  Dr Gibson: He thinks he does.

  Q67  Mr Marsden: Or even Oxford!

  Mr Wilson: Or possibly even Oxford, yes.

  Q68  Dr Gibson: He thinks he does!

  Mr Wilson: To make the point more broadly, there are vast numbers of universities that already accredit prior experiential learning which will recognise all sorts of qualifications which may not be traditional academic ones and they are the kinds of universities which are currently actively now exploring how to recognise and award UCAS points for Level 3 apprenticeships. By the way, there should be far, far more being done on that but the beginnings of it are being done. To have a stab at answering your question, what might be the core elements, I would have thought it was possible to have sector specific Level 3 core elements which were about communication skills, numeracy, literacy, team-working, motivational and organisational skills, all the things which many universities say now are what they are looking for from school or college entrants.

  Q69  Dr Gibson: This has not been thought through. I could say mathematics, statistics and so on, all of which are very important, how much you need to know is an argument, but has this been thought through by anybody yet?

  Mr Wilson: I think it is beginning to be and that is part of the purpose of this Bill, which is to concentrate a lot of energy and resources on those sorts of questions and make sure they are given the attention they deserve.

  Q70  Dr Gibson: Do you not think you need a national curriculum before you have the Bill? Do you not really need to know what you are getting into, what you need, what resources you need? You are going to have people who teach as well?

  Mr Wilson: Part of the purpose of the service will be to identify sector by sector what are the kinds of qualities that will be needed for Level 3 apprenticeships for them to be genuinely eligible for universities. Much of that work is already underway.

  Q71  Dr Gibson: What about off-the-job training, should that be part of it too?

  Mr Wilson: It could be.

  Q72  Dr Gibson: You would say that off-the-job training would be too, Sara?

  Ms Mogel: I think it depends on the sector, on the job and on the employer. We must not think that off-the-job always has to mean away from the job because it does not.

  Q73  Dr Gibson: How does it differ from away from the work station?

  Ms Mogel: Sometimes, for example, rather than you going to college, college can come to you in a variety of formats, either literally, as in a person, or through using technology. Sometimes that suits the needs of the employer and the apprentice better. In terms of progression on to higher education on to Level 4, because foundation degrees are written in conjunction with employers, they often give a very good route for a Level 3, an advanced level apprentice to go on to Level 4 and do exactly what you are saying. They are looking at the end point, this is what the foundation degree will need in order for you to be successful in it and therefore can trace back through. I think you are right, you do have to look at where you think the end point is. For some industries those routes do not yet exist and that is more of an issue than those industries that have a tradition of going on to HE.

  Q74  Dr Gibson: Martin, is there a tension in terms of the training that somebody is going to get? Is it for the employer first and their development second or are you going to tell me it is half and half because it can never be that?

  Mr Dunford: No, there is a tension. Some employers, even large ones need persuading to take on apprenticeships or do training because they think there is going to be a poaching element, we are going to train them and they are going to go. It is a reality, even very large ones have said that to me. Yes, there is a tension. It is about explaining the benefits to the employer and the individual and most people have some good in them, even if the employer thinks, I do not need some of that and it is going to benefit my employees, great. They might not need them to be literate or numerate in some cases, but that is part of the framework and so it should be, otherwise we are just talking about a quick competence-based NVQ.[10] Can I say on higher education, it is not just about getting there, it would add to the brand of apprenticeships if it is a recognised route for it. It is a bit like there are four divisions in football and one day you might be able to get there. Also, GCSEs and A levels, lots of people stop at GCSE or A level but that was the route they could have gone on to. If we could see that progression all the way, that would be a powerful strengthening brand.

  Q75 Dr Gibson: You do not have to answer this, but it is up to whoever forms this thing, the pathway has to be worked out for the individual and it is not at the minute.

  Mr Dunford: It does, yes, and there is not enough focus on progression. Even the data for measuring how many people went on to university from an apprenticeship is not available.

  Chairman: The whole business of guidance is absolutely crucial all the way through this, is it not, both for young people and indeed for adults?

  Q76  Mr Marsden: Tom, can I come to you. In its World-Class Apprenticeships paper at the beginning of January of this year the Government talked about apprenticeships in England having serious diversity problems. I know you share that assessment because you have submitted a very detailed response to the draft Bill where you have particularly highlighted the gender gap. Do you want to say anything further about how the position of women might be affected by this Bill?

  Mr Wilson: It is certainly frankly a bit of a scandal I think at the moment. The extent of segregation is astonishing, 98% of all construction apprentices will be boys and 93% of all hairdressing apprentices will be girls, something of that order. You do not find figures like that almost anywhere else in the entire education and learning system, so clearly we have got to do something about it and this Bill is the beginnings of doing something about it. The first thing, I think, is to start in schools and make sure that when teachers are advising 16-year-olds about where they might go and what their options are, teachers themselves are given some better training, advice and guidance about the wider range of options. The second thing, I think, picking up the point Martin just made, is that if apprenticeships can be seen as a route into higher education, then people might in turn begin to think of them as not something that is a dead end in itself. If you want, say, to go and do engineering, at the moment there are far more girls doing engineering at university than girls doing engineering as apprentices, so it may well be that it is a way of getting more girls into engineering apprenticeships if they can then think of going on to university.

  Q77  Mr Marsden: There is a money gap, is there not, between what women and men get under the apprenticeship scheme?

  Mr Wilson: Yes.

  Q78  Mr Marsden: Is that a key element? It may be inequitable in itself, but is it an actual key element attracting people in?

  Mr Wilson: I think it is both an element in itself and also a reflection of a wider problem, it is a presenting problem and a real problem. I think you have to tackle it on many, many fronts and one of those will be to try and persuade employers who take on women, say, in construction and engineering that they can be just as valuable as boys. That will encourage girls because they are not daft, they can see they are going to get paid far more in engineering and construction than you might in hairdressing. It will encourage more girl school leavers to consider taking up a non-traditional apprenticeship. It is important also to remember the other side of that coin, which is persuading boys to go into some of the caring professions. History shows that the more men and boys who go into these sorts of things, the higher the wages tend to be.

  Q79  Mr Marsden: Martin, if I can come to you. One of the other issues in terms of diversity is the under-representation of black and minority ethnic young people and, again, that has been identified particularly in some of the traditional craft-based sectors. Is that a problem that you recognise and, if so, what sorts of things can we do about it other than try to get quotas, which may be self-defeating?

  Mr Dunford: They certainly are unrepresented. One of our board members, Dr Richard Williams of Rathbone, has written on this subject. Black and minority ethnic young people largely go to FE colleges and do not even look at apprenticeships. There is a huge opportunity if we get the information and guidance right in schools because, I do not know if you are aware, the majority of apprentices we have do not come from school into apprenticeships, they are found, if you like, with the employer already employed. You could say this is a negative, but if you look at the opportunity to grow the numbers, if we get that information, advice and guidance right and talk about the grounding and the routes to higher education, we should attract generally more people from school into an apprenticeship and that should reflect more the population of the school. At the moment what we are reflecting is the diversity of the workplace largely, because most apprentices are signed up when they are already in work.

7   Learning and Skills Council Back

8   Not in Education, Employment or Training Back

9   Universities and Colleges Admissions Service Back

10   National Vocational Qualification Back

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