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

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 100-119)


6 OCTOBER 2008

  Q100  Chairman: David, what struck me about Martin Dunford's comments—I do not know if you were in the room when he made his comments—which I had not appreciated, most of the current apprentices are coming from people who are in work and who are then being converted to apprenticeships. They are not these new people who are coming at 16 because we have heard real problems about the career service in schools, et cetera, turning people on or at 19. How will the new Apprenticeship Service make sure that people in work who are getting training (a) get converted to the Apprenticeship Scheme but (b) also get quality? Is that something you have missed?

  Mr Way: I do not think so. Martin makes the point, and I have heard Martin make the point before, because we tend to think about apprenticeships as all being recruited and he makes the point that quite a few have been there.

  Q101  Chairman: He said the majority.

  Mr Way: Yes, it is the majority, but that is not to say that there are not still many thousands and thousands of apprentices who are recruited. When I talk to employers, they are increasingly thinking about offering apprenticeships as a recruitment tool. Even those at the moment who are taking people who are in work and converting them to apprentices, when I talk to them they say, "How much more could you bring to this by bringing people in and saying `Come in, work for me, I will train you properly'?" I think this is going to be dynamic. Where we have got providers already working successfully with employers and employers are happy with the quality of the service they are getting, there is not a role for the National Apprenticeship Service other than ensuring that the quality of that experience is maintained. I do expect employers from time to time to come back to the National Apprenticeship Service if they want to think about broadening the people in their workforce who they are working with or moving to another provider. That is a service which the National Apprenticeship Service can offer.

  Q102  Ian Stewart: David, this Bill will give a guarantee of a couple of choices to a young person who qualifies for an apprenticeship. How is the Learning and Skills Council going to manage demand when it outstrips particular apprenticeships or if there is a downturn in the economy or if there are no places available? How are you going to manage that?

  Mr Way: There are two parts to that. If I could put the second one as being the downturn in the economy and what we do to manage that and the first part is about how can the LSC manage the supply of places. I think this is a part of the legislation which needs careful framing because, of course, ultimately it is the employer and the individual who come together in order to offer an apprenticeship. The Learning and Skills Council does not employ very many apprentices, the majority of staff are out there. It is important that the Learning and Skills Council and the National Apprenticeship Service have a responsibility placed upon it. One could use the phrase "best endeavours", something a bit stronger than that, but I do not think you can reasonably place on the Learning and Skills Council something which it cannot make happen. What it can do is it can encourage it, it can drive up demand, it can work with employers, it can stimulate, all those things, but it cannot be the employer at the end of the day, so a responsibility, yes, but we have got to frame that correctly.

  Q103  Ian Stewart: I am perplexed about this aspect of offering a person two apprenticeships, that complicates it even further, does it not? How do you do that in rural areas, for example?

  Mr Way: First of all, let me be clear, the National Apprenticeship Service will be trying to give that young person an apprenticeship in the framework which is their first choice and the sectors are relatively widely described so that you have got some prospect of that. There will be occasions when you will have to have a talk with young people about what is a reasonable expectation in a particular locality, whether that might mean the possibility of moving, trying to strike the right balance between reasonable expectations and what is available, but the NAS field force on the employers' side will be responding all the time to the unmet demand from young people and saying, "Look, here we've got lots of young people working with the local authorities, working with Connexions saying `where is the demand for this'". This is going to be a focus for the National Apprenticeship Service to focus its efforts to produce vacancies in those areas.

  Q104  Ian Stewart: Have I got it right, the key here is the Learning and Skills Council or subsequent body and the person seeking an apprenticeship may be ready and enlightened, you can take the horse to water, but is it the employer who is the difficult part?

  Mr Way: We have always got to be balancing supply and demand here and working on both sides, but there is no doubt that what we need to do is increase the number of good quality employer apprenticeships and you get queues of young people for those. In looking at how we might deploy LSC/NAS resources in the future, my priority at the moment in planning this and thinking about it is definitely on the employers' side because if we can produce more vacancies, we will get young people coming through. We must not neglect ensuring that good quality young people get the right advice and come through, but given a choice between the two, it is the vacancies we need.

  Q105  Ian Stewart: Marinos, at the regional level, do you have strategies for encouraging employers?

  Mr Paphitis: Absolutely. We have got to work with providers as well as employers and young people in schools to try and get that balance. In any given year it will not be perfect but the information, advice and guidance which young people get and the information which is available through the new Vacancy Matching Service will go a long way towards helping on the point that you are raising. Young people are very good at finding out for themselves through using information technology now, and they are very smart at that, they will be able to see for themselves the multitude of vacancies that are available in their region, in their sub-region and in their town and will get a very good idea of what might be available for them. Earlier witnesses explained that perhaps with some very big employers they only take one in 10 of the people who apply. Those young people are still interested in apprenticeships and so by having the information, it will give them an absolute chance to have another look at what else might be available, something I think currently we miss.

  Ian Stewart: I understand all that and that is good stuff, but there is something here that I am missing. My understanding is that this draft Bill, if it is passed, will place a responsibility on the Learning and Skills Council to provide every person who qualifies with an apprenticeship.

  Chairman: A choice of two.

  Q106  Ian Stewart: A choice of two, yes. If you are doing everything you need to do and the apprenticeship work is not available, how can you meet that commitment?

  Mr Paphitis: I think David hit on that, it is the way it is framed. You cannot have an apprenticeship without an employer and a young person. We can do a lot to bring all those things together, so the more vacancies we can generate, the more interest in schools, the more young people who come forward, the better the market will work. What we cannot do is force young people on an employer or an employer on a young person, so what we must do is provide the market, be the market maker in terms of supporting the opportunities for young people and ensuring that employers put their vacancies on the system. By doing that and by giving young people the opportunity to have a look at what is available, I am sure that will give them an opportunity to look at more than two vacancies. By no means can we guarantee that they will get one of those options.

  Q107  Dr Blackman-Woods: How do you think the National Apprenticeship Service is going to be marketed to employers?

  Mr Paphitis: Through a number of routes. For a start, let us be clear, most employers currently working with apprenticeships work through training providers, so training providers will have a major role in ensuring that employers understand what we have got and they understand the benefits, for instance, of the Vacancy Matching Service and they use it. Without providers supporting employers to do that we will not have that part of the market made up, so I think providers are a fundamental tool in terms of promoting to employers. We need to do a lot more in terms of our marketing campaigns also to attract those nine out of 10 employers who currently do not offer apprenticeships, so there is another route to market which is directly those employers and the National Apprenticeship Service will have a role in that. We have never had one before, so I think it will be a major benefit in terms of getting more employers.

  Q108  Dr Blackman-Woods: You do not think it is going to get in the way of direct contact with employers?

  Mr Paphitis: Absolutely not, no. On the contrary, I think we may well have more employers looking directly at apprenticeships rather than through other routes.

  Mr Way: Can I make a brief point on that. One of the things we are able to do is open up areas where employers are not offering apprenticeships at the moment and there are quite a few of those; I guess the best example would be the public service. Wherever we look, I think there is a combination of two things which are key: one is leadership and so identifying the local authority leaders, the local authority chief executives to get this across to people and, secondly, in the engine room, if you like, making sure the people who want to offer apprenticeships are able to get case studies, materials, all the information they need so they can then drive the whole process forward underneath that leadership. There are still masses of sectors where we can make real progress in that so that employers find the right frameworks and find something which is right for them.

  Q109  Dr Blackman-Woods: That is interesting. What relationship do you think it is likely to have with local authorities?

  Mr Way: I think close because with local authorities we have got two or three things happening here. Clearly local authorities have got the strategic lead for up to 19 and that is an important responsibility. They have got the leverage over a lot of other key strategic partnerships through local partnerships so that they can exercise their own leadership on that community to take on apprenticeships, but crucially their role as employers. As I go up and down the country, I see some local authorities that are really, really good at this and some local authorities that do not do it at all. It is obviously possible for local authorities to do it, so if we can bring those leaders of the local authorities who are doing really well up and down the country with those who are not, I think there are some real wins there. It does help with this entitlement because public services, as we know, are often the biggest employer in some localities, so I think it is absolutely crucial.

  Q110  Mr Marsden: On that point, David, leaving aside—and it is a big leaving aside at the moment—the current economic downturn, are the targets there to be met in terms of offering apprenticeships not going to be virtually impossible to achieve without a substantial engagement with the public sector? What have you been able to do so far and what are you going to be able to do via Gus O'Donnell and various other people to make sure that government departments step up to the plate in this respect?

  Mr Way: I think we are seeing, of course, as a more public sector champions who are driving that particular agenda forward and a number of letters have gone out to the leaders of government departments to say—

  Q111  Mr Marsden: It is not letters you need, it is bottoms kicking.

  Mr Paphitis: We have been working very closely with the people who have had the letters. I have got examples of very big local authorities in my patch in the South East, Kent for instance, which are now saying they will take on 300 or 400 apprentices and they are the biggest employer probably in Kent. The Civil Service is another one where I am working with the local Government Office for the South East, with all the Civil Service departments, to say, "What can you do and what numbers can we put on it?" I agree, it not just letters, we need action and we are taking action.

  Mr Way: I think we are changing the culture in a sense. If you are in a leadership position in the public service and you are not responding to the apprenticeship agenda, then you are rapidly finding yourself in the minority.

  Q112  Chairman: You will not forget the Health Service?

  Mr Way: No, we are very much working with the Health Service.

  Q113  Mr Boswell: We have heard quite a bit today about diversity and about access which is rather wider than diversity. I just ask a general question first to you both. What measures are the NAS going to use to gauge whether they have succeeded or failed? Is this bums on seats or is it something more than that?

  Mr Way: I think measuring the progress and monitoring the progress is important in this context and I do not think you are suggesting it is not. Where we really are with this is to try to find ways that work and there are in World-Class Apprenticeships some proposals which we think are very good proposals about trying to create a critical mass in particular sectors. I am particularly keen on mentoring for atypical learners—it is a horrible expression, I know—but I do think being an apprentice and taking a route which is not the typical route that is taken can be a pretty lonely experience. I am very keen on using social networks and the webs we talked about before to link people together through organisations like Horse's Mouth which do similar sorts of things to make people feel as though they are not on their own, they are part of a change here, they can network with people who have been down this route, often a lonely route as I say, successfully and draw strength from that. That is one of the important things I think we would want to do.

  Q114  Mr Boswell: I think I am harking after the right kind of metrics as well, Marinos. Are we looking at numbers or are we trying to get a better overall measure? Can we use qualitative measures as well?

  Mr Paphitis: We always have to look at the numbers. I think it is very important that we can demonstrate over a long period that we have had more and more young people from diverse backgrounds entering apprenticeships, but I think entitlement is the key one. We have heard earlier that many young people from black and ethnic minorities go into college or other learning rather than apprenticeships. It is crucial that they can see the matching service reaches all young people, not at 16, at 14 and 15 when they are making key decisions, so that they know that these opportunities are available.

  Q115  Mr Boswell: As part of IAG?[11]

  Mr Paphitis: Absolutely. Within schools all young people are aware of the A level option, diploma option and the apprenticeship option and not the dead end job option, so that when they come into the programme then we can start to measure progress. While we have seen some progress, I think tackling them at 14 and making sure that young people from all communities and both sexes have access to apprenticeships will mean that the numbers will then start to look much better.

  Q116  Mr Boswell: Two other thoughts. One is what you might loosely call "pre-entry qualifications". Do you need some rules to satisfy yourself that the entrants are of high quality or is that something the market can sort out? Conversely, are you maybe looking at the public funding side, wanting to restrict funds if employers are not, as it were, offering a broad offer? There are lots of leaders in government like the public sector duties, for example. If people are picking and choosing in a way which is actually subversive to the national interest, are you going to take an interest in that?

  Mr Way: I think one of the things we certainly are doing is that any additional money which is going into the apprenticeship system at the moment and into the trails in World-Class Apprenticeships we are encouraging employers to train more apprentices than they need immediately, but certainly looking to ensure that produces a real dividend across the piece. We are not looking for more of the same, we are looking to achieve some other goals in all of this. I think that is particularly important. We do try to take those opportunities when they come.

  Q117  Mr Boswell: Presumably, as the NAS develops—it is early days yet—you will be looking at a portfolio of statistics which are relevant to this. The ones I have listed here: entrants, retention and completion, where people go and destinations, qualifications, going on, progression, further and higher study and carrying on in a job, are those the sorts of things? Is there anything else you would like to add to that list?

  Mr Paphitis: They are exactly the sorts of things we should be collecting and we do try very hard. In some cases it gets difficult once they leave a particular activity, they move on to another employer but generally we do collect those things.

  Q118  Mr Boswell: Perhaps we need to give them a bit of an inducement to make sure they keep a relationship.

  Mr Paphitis: Of course the more young people that complete their qualification, the easier it is to collect.

  Mr Way: To link back to one of the earlier points, I think one of the big differences that can be made is to see growth in apprenticeships in London but also similarly in other conurbations. I think that can make a huge difference.

  Q119  Mr Boswell: And loops back into diversity.

  Mr Way: Yes, and I mentioned the 25 plus, the adult apprenticeships. We have seen very good results for women returners and BME[12] participation. There is very much a strong theme of second chance learners, people whose lives have settled down in their late 20s and 30s. We need to do some more evaluation on that, but that is looking very encouraging.

11   Information, advice and guidance Back

12   Black and minority ethnic Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 5 December 2008