Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
KNIGHT MP AND
27 OCTOBER 2008
Q160 Mr Boswell: I would not disagree
with you, having been a member of one. Nevertheless, it is a question
of whether you will actually assume a duty to do that.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
cannot see any barriers to them when we see it as an essential
part of our strategy to maximise apprenticeships.
Jim Knight: The only thing I would
add to what Tony has said is that between the two departments
we have also got to ensure that we have the resource to stimulate
them. Clearly, we have a certain amount of resource for the NAS
to spend on apprenticeships and they have to balance up the various
thingsthe vacancy matching service, some of the other promotion
that we do, the structural things that you do with GTAs and so
on. That is the context against which we would have to look at
things like duties and how widely we can create an expectancy
that everyone will be able to get help in setting up a GTA.
Q161 Mr Boswell: What about having
a subsidy for the employer, particularly if they are a small business?
Are you thinking about that?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Given
that we are talking about a draft bill, I think we understand
the point that you are making. What you are saying is that small
and medium sized employers need every encouragement they can to
participate. We could not make any promises in relation to that.
We can just examine and discuss with them what the needs and the
barriers are and if there is any more we can do that is feasible.
Q162 Mr Marsden: One of the issues
that the Federation of Small Businesses expressed reservations
about on the Government's proposals when they gave evidence to
us, although they were broadly supportive, was that you really
have not in their view done enough to address the issue of informal
bite-sized learning. We know from the evidence out there that
the current apprenticeship structures are ones that a lot of small
businesses find difficult to cope with and therefore will a more
bite-sized, portable approach to training and development come
within the framework agreement arrangements which are envisaged
in the legislation?
Mr Marston: The way we are expecting
that to work is that an apprenticeship programme is intended to
be a way of acquiring a serious breadth of skill, knowledge, competence
and understanding that you can use in the workplace.
Q163 Mr Marsden: With respect, Stephen,
that is rhetoric, and that is always the case. What it comes down
to in brass tacks is that small employers are telling us that
the structures that have been produced are not appropriate for
the sort of work patterns they have and that nothing has been
done to address that.
Mr Marston: The apprenticeship
programme is an important part, but only one part, of the support
that we are trying to offer to SMEs with training. We had a previous
discussion in the Committee about Train to Gain and one effect
of last week's announcement on the packages for SMEs is that we
will in future be supporting in private sector SMEs more bite-sized,
unitised training. But an apprenticeship should be a serious,
heavyweight training programme that enables a young person or
an adult to make a step change in their ability to contribute
in employment. It is really not about short, bite-sized chunks.
If that is what you want to do that is absolutely fine for business
and we will support it through Train to Gain but it is not what
an apprenticeship programme should be about. That should be a
serious qualification to equip you with a breadth of skill you
do not otherwise have.
Q164 Mr Marsden: With the Chairman's
indulgence, and it will be a quick retort but it is also a quick
question, with respect, if we adopted that principle in respect
of higher education half the university courses in the country
would be blasted off the curriculum. The idea that because you
do something on a sequential, modular, credit-based basis, if
you want to look at it that way, it is not consistent with some
form of strong apprenticeship or strong learning programme, is
one that I think most people would regard as really rather silly.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
think we might be at cross-purposes here. There is nothing wrong
with a sequential or modular approach, and after all we are serious
when we say that the whole idea of designing frameworks is that
they are designed in consultation with employers. If they come
to the Sector Skills Council and they say they want a modular
approach as part of that framework, provided it meets reasonable
quality criteria we should be able to respond to that. Otherwise
we are failing in what should be one of the main drivers of this.
We are going out and saying to employers, "We want to listen
to what you want. We want these apprenticeships to reflect your
needs", so if that is what you are on about we ought to be
able to accommodate a modular approach without undermining the
quality of the apprenticeship, which is what Stephen was stressing.
Mr Marston: What we have said,
and it is here in the Bill, is that one component of all apprenticeship
frameworks must be a defined principal qualification or qualifications.
By all means, as part of the wider qualification reform programme
qualifications will be unitised, and people will be able to do
chunks of training, but the point of this is that we are trying
to work towards a worthwhile, valuable qualification.
Q165 Chairman: I think it is absolutely
fair, Lord Young, and I hope you do not get the impression that
we want anything other than a high quality apprenticeship programme.
I think we are at one on that.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Yes.
It was flexibility that was being stressed, I think.
Q166 Chairman: But would you accept
that the specification of apprenticeship standards provided in
clauses 11-15 in the draft Bill are absolutely essential to having
a high quality apprenticeship scheme?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Indeed.
Q167 Chairman: The answer to that
is yes, I hope.
Jim Knight: It is slightly bizarre.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: If
all the questions were like that and I could agree with them all
it would be easy.
Q168 Chairman: The question is why
therefore have you not published a draft specification in the
Bill because the draft specification would give us an idea as
to what your thinking is and it is absent?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: We
are tightening up the requirements of the Learning and Skills
Council. There is an existing blueprint that all frameworks have
to relate to. We are making that much more rigorous.
Q169 Chairman: So why not a specification?
We understand what the blueprint is because that is in existence
at the moment but you are saying it is going to be different from
the blueprint, so why have you not got a draft specification?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: As
long as we define the key principles in the Bill do we really
want to say that every time we might want to change an aspect
of that it would require primary legislation? I think you are
right to demand something that is a key determinant of quality
but I think we have done it unless I am mistaken.
Mr Marston: Chairman, you are
right, we have not yet published the proposed form of the new
blueprint, I am afraid. We will do that as rapidly as possible.
We have put out in World-class Apprenticeships an outline
of what that blueprint will cover and the way in which it will
move on from the blueprint that already exists on a non-statutory
Q170 Chairman: I think again we are
at cross-purposes here. The point of having this scrutiny of the
draft Bill is to see what the Government's intentions are and
unless you produce a draft specification we do not know what your
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Let
me reassure you. We will have a specification for the Second Reading.
Q171 Chairman: Thank you very much
Jim Knight: Chairman, obviously,
the explanatory notes set out a little bit of the thinking and
reference to the World-class Apprenticeships paper. Across
all of that it is possible to see what we are talking about but
you will get it at Second Reading.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.
Q172 Mr Boswell: May I turn to what
could sound like an old chestnut, which is the relationship between
apprenticeships and the wider qualifications framework? I am particularly
interested in the core elements of apprenticeships as they are
developed, and will the attainment of an apprenticeship be interchangeable
with GCSEs and A-levels for the other area we have not talked
about yet, which is entry to higher education or development?
Jim Knight: We set out in the
qualification strategy of the two departments a few months ago
how we wanted to move from this plethoraobviously, particularly
as far as I am concerned, up to 19of qualifications that
we were funding and distil it down in principle to a foundation
learning tier that then underpins a three-pronged set of choicestraditional
GCSE, A-level, the traditional vocational apprenticeship and then
the bridging qualification in the form of diplomas. Obviously,
there then needs to be an equivalence read-across and we have
the development of the qualification and credit framework in order
to offer that, particularly post-19, but the equivalence is there
in respect of the NVQ
levels and I know that there has been some discussion, for example,
about being able to move from a Level 2 diploma into a Level 3
apprenticeship, for example. There is no reason why you cannot
do that. There may be some issues in respect of having the practical
skills in detail that you would get at Level 2 in an apprenticeship
that would then allow you to do a Level 3 apprenticeship. The
diploma, being a sector-specific qualification rather than an
occupation-specific qualification, may not give you some of those
practical skills, so you might need to do some work in order to
catch those up before you can then go on to do a Level 3. In principle
what we are after is a level 2 is a level 2, be it a GCSE, an
apprenticeship or a diploma, and a level 3 is a level 3 and so
Q173 Mr Boswell: A couple of follow-ups.
One is Rathbone have given us evidence and suggested that about
70% of its apprentices have additional educational needs, that
is of course not SEN but some forms of remedial support rather
along the lines you mentioned. Will the Bill be able to cope with
the educational needs of apprentices, specifically on moving from
level 2 to level 3, for example?
Jim Knight: The overall delivery
will and to some extent we get back to the extent to which we
have already set out what would be in the standard or not. The
standard will be specific on transferable skills, particularly
functional skills. You will need to be able to develop the necessary
competence at the necessary level in respect of functionality.
We are building personal learning and thinking skills and functional
skills into the diplomas quite deliberately but, similarly, the
apprenticeship's standard, which the frameworks would have to
deliver on, would include those transferable skills.
Q174 Mr Boswell: Will you be intending
to have what you might call a marketing campaign among HEIs,
for example, to make sure that once this is set out they are likely
to take notice of what is on offer?
Jim Knight: Yes. Obviously this
Committee is more expert than I on the independence of universities
and how important it is to win their hearts and minds rather than
tell them what to do and we will be working very hard to do that.
Mr Marston: One other component
of the blueprint will be that it requires frameworks to set out
progression routes so you can see how you can move from an apprenticeship
to an advanced apprenticeship and on into higher education.
Mr Boswell: That is helpful.
Q175 Mr Marsden: Lord Young, your
colleague, Jim Knight, has just mentioned about hearts and minds
and the HE
sector. I will resist the temptation to ask you to comment on,
I think it was, Lyndon Johnson who said that when you have them
by the balls their hearts and minds will follow, but we will not
go down that route. What I would like to ask you, if I may, is
there is clearly a big issue as to the extent to which apprenticeships
and vocational qualifications in general will be accepted by higher
education institutions. The Edge Foundation have suggested that
a provision on the face of this Bill which might entitle all apprenticeships
to access to a higher education course in parallel to their apprenticeships
would be useful in that process. Do you think that sort of provision
would prove that apprenticeships are a genuine alternative to
A levels, diplomas and other full-time courses in terms of accessing
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Certainly
we want to ensure that, as has already been said, there is a means
of them progressing into higher education, yes. Indeed, if you
look at what happens in life, young people find that just because
they go on a route via an apprenticeship it does not stop them
ending up in higher education. Do we want to encourage that process?
Do we want to ensure that where we can qualifications lead to
points? Yes, we do.
Q176 Mr Marsden: Do you agree also, in
view of what we know about demography and the changes, that increasingly
HE applicants themselves will be in an older age range and, therefore,
this issue is an issue for adult apprenticeships as well as apprenticeships
for young people?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Yes.
We are not just envisaging apprenticeships starting from the normal
age, we are envisaging a significant increase in adult apprenticeships
as well and, indeed, we are beginning to see that.
Mr Marston: To try to encourage
that progression we are working with two of the current Sector
Skills Councils, SEMTA
and e-Skills, on looking precisely at the UCAS tariff equivalent
of what goes into their apprenticeships and then we can take that
as model to show how you can build progression routes from apprenticeships
Q177 Chairman: Gordon Marsden's question,
I think, is really quite pertinent to whether in fact you are
going to put on the face of the final Bill a requirement of higher
education which is due to take this into account rather than just
a pious hope that they will. The answer is no?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
do not know that currently we plan to do that.
Q178 Chairman: Why not, if it is
Mr Marston: New primary legislation
relating to admissions to universities would
Chairman: Is it a requirement to consider?
It would have to be in their admissions criteria.
Q179 Mr Marsden: It is a tweak on
the balls rather than grabbing them.
Jim Knight: Surely if we can get
and others without touching their more sensitive genitalia or
parts of their anatomy to want to do it, then that is more persuasive
in the end.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Apparently
we are going to commission a joint HEFCE, FDF, LSC and NAS review
of vocational progression to foundation degrees. We do understand
the importance of this, it is important, but putting it on the
face of the Bill, we certainly had not planned to do that.
Chairman: Could I say on a personal note,
I find that an incredibly disappointing cop-out, that you are
not prepared really to stand up to higher education and make sure
that apprenticeship routes and vocational routes into higher education
have got the same validity as you would have with GCSE and A level,
but I will move on to Rob Wilson.
10 National vocational qualifications Back
Higher education institutions Back
Higher education Back
University and Colleges Admissions Service Back
Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering And Manufacturing
Higher Education Funding Council for England Back