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

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 95-99)


6 OCTOBER 2008

  Q95 Chairman: Welcome to our last panel today, David Way, the National Director of Apprenticeships, Learning and Skills Council, and Marinos Paphitis, the Regional Director of the Learning and Skills Council, South East. Thank you very much indeed and I know you have listened to much of the session this afternoon. I wonder if I could start with you, David. In the introduction to the draft Bill it says, the Bill, "will provide new focused leadership for the Apprenticeship Programme. One particularly important role of the new service will be to expand the reach of the programme into sectors, regions, groups where apprenticeship take-up is presently low", you have been a failure, have you not?

  Mr Way: I do not think increasing the number of apprenticeships this year by over 20% compared with last year and increasing completion rates to the highest ever so it makes us comparable with the rest of Europe is a backdrop for failure. We have also introduced adult apprenticeships which have grown to about 26,000 and are catering for many of the people you have talked about in your questions.

  Q96  Chairman: Why do we need the Bill then?

  Mr Way: We need the Bill because, as other witnesses have said, firstly, we need to consolidate and put in legislation the importance of apprenticeships for the ambitions of the country, that is a very good thing for us to do, but also there are other things in the Bill which are important. We have not talked much so far about the rights of young people in order to secure an apprenticeship in one of two sectors of their choice, I think that is important. We have talked a bit about the rights to information, advice and guidance so that in schools in particular all young people get information about the full range of opportunities and that includes apprenticeships. We know from research that 80% of teachers in schools do not feel confident talking about apprenticeships at the moment, so this does a lot to consolidate the direction of travel, but particularly the entitlement and the consolidation of the work of the National Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service and the National Apprenticeship Service.

  Q97  Chairman: Marinos, what differences will an employer or, indeed, an apprentice notice when the new National Apprenticeship Service is set up?

  Mr Paphitis: The young people and employers already engaged may not notice a difference, this is about raising the esteem of these people.

  Q98  Chairman: I am trying to work out why we are having this Bill because if it is such a success currently, as David says, and we are expanding so quickly, I do not understand why we need it.

  Mr Paphitis: I think it is a great success but there is so much more to do, there are so many young people not engaged in apprenticeships, as we heard earlier, there are so many employers, nine in 10 not engaged in apprenticeships, so if we can get to those as opposed to the existing ones. If you are asking me, "Will it benefit an existing employer or a young person already there?", then perhaps not, but if we raise the whole spectra of the entitlement to an apprenticeship by having the Bill, if we raise the profile, if we raise the quality assurance, if we protect the brand, which is very important, and we ensure that diversity is tackled, then we can do so much more. I do not think it is about failure to date, there is so much more we can do and I think the Bill will help us to raise the profile.

  Q99  Chairman: How do we ensure the best people within the LSC at the moment transfer into the National Apprenticeship Service, or will there be new people recruited to that service?

  Mr Paphitis: I think both.

  Mr Way: I think the answer is we will have high quality people from the Learning and Skills Council transferring to the National Apprenticeship Service because the nature of the work it involves is going to be attractive to many people in that organisation, as will the continuing work with the Young People's Learning Agency and the Skills Funding Agency. I would be confident that type of work is going to be appealing to many people because it is going to be locally based and directly dealing with employers. What this will mean is if you are an employer, you will know exactly where to go to get help with apprenticeships, information and specialist advice to get you on to an apprenticeship. If you are a young person, you can use the Vacancy Matching Service and be confident that the National Apprenticeship Service is working with schools, Connexions and other advisers to make sure that you are given the best possible information to make the right decision for you at 16, 17 and 18.

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