Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
KNIGHT MP AND
27 OCTOBER 2008
Q180 Mr Wilson: I will try and steer
clear of balls for the next couple of questions. The British Chambers
of Commerce have raised a pretty legitimate concern with this
Committee and I hope that you can reassure us about it. David
Frost said: "Simply to go for volume at the expense of quality
will just consign this programme to the dustbin". It does
raise a very pertinent point in that how do you ensure that quality
does not suffer as you rapidly expand this apprenticeship programme.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: We
talked about a more rigorous route in the specification which
we said that we will provide in the Second Reading. After all,
there is a good deal of current experience in designing frameworks,
they do have to meet their criteria. We agree that there is an
important balance to be struck here and you cannot just drive
up volume, if you like, without ensuring that you sustain the
quality and the brand. If somebody goes through an apprenticeship,
it should be something that they should be proud of at the end
of that process. We believe that with the frameworks which have
to be agreed, there is a balance to be struck between, if you
like, the reasonable demands of employers saying that it should
reflect the flexibility which they require within meeting the
demands that are currently laid out by the Learning and Skills
Council in their blueprint. We have 180 frameworks at the moment,
it is a good deal of experience about what should constitute an
apprenticeship. I cannot see a sudden departure from that process.
Jim Knight: Could I add, and then
Stephen will mop up what is left, that beyond that importantly
the frameworks sit with employers through the Sector Skills Council
and sometimes employers by themselves, it is in their interests
to ensure the quality. It is also something that we inspect. Ofsted
inspects the provision and they do so on a proportionate basis,
but we have that inspection of quality and then we have the performance
management of the post-16 providers through the Framework for
Excellence. In turn, by including apprenticeships' success rates
as one of the measures within the Framework for Excellence for
that element of apprenticeship which is delivered by training
providers, we have got quite an important lever in ensuring quality.
Mr Marston: I want to add that
I think the Committee and, indeed, David could take some comfort
from what has happened over the past few years. In 2001-02 apprenticeship
framework completion rates were standing at 24%, they are now
at 63%. Over that period we have significantly expanded volume
and dramatically raised quality. We will aim to keep that same
combination of increased volume and higher quality as we continue
to expand the programme.
Q181 Mr Wilson: As you have mentioned
it, Jim, let us talk about Ofsted because in Network Rail's submission
to us it said: "The LSC and Ofsted are bureaucratic and their
auditing of our standards excessive". There is a tension,
is there not, in these discussions? How are you going to balance
the demand for quality with businesses' desire for less regulation?
Jim Knight: That is an ongoing
tension, is it not? Network Rail have got two regulators because
they are one of the four employers that are now accredited as
an awarding body, so they have also got Ofqual as a regulator
of them as an awarding body as well as Ofsted regulating their
provision. That is something Ofsted are currently looking at at
the moment in terms of whether or not we need to move more as
a proportionate risk-based response to inspection so, where a
provider, be it Network Rail or anybody else, demonstrates consistently
that they are delivering quality, then perhaps there is a need
to inspect them less frequently and that is something which Ofsted
is working on at the moment.
Q182 Chairman: Could I lead you on
to another area where hopefully you will put something on the
face of the Bill and this is to do with diversity. There is a
40% pay differential between male and female apprentices according
to the 2005 apprenticeship pay survey. Seventy per cent of advanced
apprenticeships are male and, indeed, black and minority ethnic
groups are grossly under-represented at all levels of apprenticeships.
That is your information coming from the Government, Lord Young.
Where on the face of the Bill is there any encouragement that
there is going to be a direct approach to addressing these diversity
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
hate to disappoint you again, Chairman, not on the face of the
Bill because we do not believe that this Bill is the right vehicle
to do it. Apprentices are employees and their employment relationship
is governed by employment and equalities legislation, so there
is a single equalities bill to consolidate, harmonise and extend
existing discrimination law. That was a manifesto commitment and
that Bill is planned to be introduced into Parliament in the next
session. I want to address the point you made, because it is a
really serious point about the problem. There is a series of initiatives,
of which the National Apprenticeship Service will play a key part,
to encourage learners to consider atypical career choices when
applying for apprenticeships. So what does this include? Advice
in schools, because that is often where the first barrier is,
people see their career choices in a very stereotypical way, so
if it is hairdressing and beauty, you know that course is going
to be packed out in the main by young women and, similarly, on
engineering you might see the obverse. We need to ensure that
the advice in schools is appropriate, that we do something to
combat the stereotype. There will be a mentoring system for apprentices
in situations in which they might feel isolated due to differences
in gender, ethnic background or disability and the Learning and
Skills Council are developing a series of critical mass pilots
across the country to increase atypical and under-represented
learners on apprenticeships. These pilots will facilitate collaboration
between employers and the third sector to support atypical and
under-represented learners. Then the expansion of the apprenticeship
programme to over 25s has already had a positive impact on diversity,
greater representation of females and black and minority ethnic
groups in over 25s apprenticeships, so a number of activities
that we will undertake but nothing on the face of the Bill.
Q183 Chairman: There will be no requirements
at all, there will be no requirements on the Inspection Service
to inspect against diversity issues? Jim, will there or will there
Jim Knight: As Lord Young said,
there will be measures in the Single Equalities Bill, that is
the more appropriate legislative vehicle for this particular area.
You can look forward to us being able to listen carefully to what
your Committee has said and reflect on it and then see how we
can reflect that in the Single Equalities Bill rather than through
this piece of legislation. I would reinforce what Lord Young said
in respect of careers education, that is something we are improving
in guidance to schools. One of the other strengths of having a
National Apprenticeship Service and having the rigour and the
substance of the NAS will be trying to chase after some of the
geographical imbalances in apprenticeship take-up. Simply by addressing
the issue of low take-up in the London area, you would have to
then be addressing some of the diversity issues which you talked
about in terms of BME,
Chairman: I think we would both agree
this is an important issue.
Q184 Mr Boswell: Another important
issue is the employment rights of apprentices. The Flett v
Matheson case established the principle that where an employer
does not wish to continue to provide an apprenticeship, there
should be an obligation on that employer to try to find an alternative
placement. I have to say, this is exactly what has happened to
a constituent who has been in correspondence with me about this,
for example. Why does the draft Bill not enshrine that principle
in statute form?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Again,
I think we share a common goal of trying to maximise the number
of apprenticeships. If we made it into a contract of apprenticeship,
I think the legal obligations of that would undermine the primary
goal, so we have tried to strike a balance here on giving an apprentice
normal employment rights. Can we guarantee that if an employer
in the final stages decides not to go ahead, that they will find
an alternative place? I do not think we could. I hope we will
be creating a climate with something like the Vacancy Matching
Service, all the services of the National Apprenticeship Service,
that we could do something to deal with those problems. It is
about a balance on employment rights.
Q185 Mr Boswell: Following on from
that, I think we would all agree, not only on the objective of
increasing the apprentices but as far as possible trying to keep
the law out of these circumstances unless it is essential. My
understanding is you have suggested as Government that if there
is dissatisfaction with the training an apprentice is receiving,
this should be referred to an employment tribunal. I do realise
that employment tribunals have a preliminary mediation function,
you cannot just take it to the final resolution without an intermediate
stage, but is there a case for getting the National Apprenticeship
Service instead, for example, to take on that and attempt to sort
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My
instant reaction is if we had not covered a scenario where somebody
is dissatisfied and the only recourse is to go to law, there is
something wrong. There ought to be something in the National Apprenticeship
Service or somewhere which enables somebody who has got a genuine
grievance about the quality of training that they are receiving
to resolve it without going to law.
Q186 Mr Boswell: My next question
was going to be what about having an Ombudsman, for example?
Jim Knight: We want the NAS to
be quite a focused organisation, quite a focused service within
There are all sorts of reasons why it has been designed the way
it has, but we want to put that expertise in employer engagement
into one place. To have a tribunal service which sits within that
is slightly awkward in terms of its focus. There is some quite
complicated legal advice and discussion that I have been trying
to keep up with in terms of the common law status of an apprenticeship
contract. I am completely persuaded that moving the definition
of the contracts we are talking about as service contracts, as
the draft Bill does, so you have got the flexibility of employment
contracts, you have then got the use of things like the employment
tribunals, seems a very sensible way of keeping the NAS focused
and keeping the contracts we are talking about relatively flexible.
Q187 Mr Boswell: Can we go back to the
pointLord Young almost floated it for meabout some
redress procedure. There is some degree of inequality in the relationship
between an apprentice and their employer, possibly on the scale,
legal firepower, access to legal advice and all the rest of it,
have you considered setting up some kind of apprenticeship Ombudsman
or at least some vehicle through which individual apprentices
can raise their concerns and grievances and obtain advice?
Jim Knight: I think we would always
reflect on what people like yourselves would tell us about the
need for such a service, then whether or not you would fashion
such a service or whether you would look across the landscape
at what is already there and whether or not there is something
else that you could use would then follow.
Q188 Mr Boswell: I take it there
is a sort of acknowledgment of the issue without necessarily having
resolved the final outcome.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
do and, without getting into perhaps the panoply of an Ombudsman
or whatever, I am told that the NAS will address initial complaints
but it is not going to be on the face of the Bill. All I was reflecting
was in my experience, even before somebody goes to an employment
tribunal, which although in theory is designed to be less legal
than a court, in fact if you have experienced them you will know
that is not the case. Personally, I was keen to see what would
a young apprentice or, indeed, any apprentice do if they felt,
hang on, this is not what it said on the tin when I signed up,
there ought to be a means of trying to resolve it without going
to any form of law. It looks like we have got some ideas and we
need to take what you said into account.
Q189 Dr Iddon: I apologise for missing
the bulk of the Committee, I am afraid I was on a three line whip
in another Committee.
Jim Knight: I am sure it was a
fascinating statutory instrument!
Q190 Dr Iddon: Yes, it was! Out of
the Learning and Skills Council, which has taken a long time to
settle down but I feel it has settled down now, we have another
bureaucratic upheaval and out of that will come the National Apprenticeship
Scheme. Why are we going through another major bureaucratic upheaval
to reorganise the structures?
Jim Knight: I think the root of
this lies with the decision that was made prior to the Machinery
of Government change to raise the participation age to 18. In
essence, and to cut a very long set of discussions short, once
you have made that decision, then you are saying to local authorities,
"You've got duties and responsibilities to ensure that every
young person right up until the age of 18 has got a proper range
of provision to meet their needs and their personal circumstances".
Once you have given local authorities those duties, then it makes
sense to transfer the commissioning of those post-16 education
services to local authorities. Hence, you are taking away the
majority of the funding then from the Learning and Skills Council
and you are left with something else. That is then an opportunity
to look at whether having made that decision you are going to
have that break at 18 rather than at 16, which would then be reflected
in the machinery of government change to say, "Are there
things about what is left of the LSC's function, having taken
away post-16 learning, that you would configure slightly differently?"
and the answer was "Yes", hence the formation of the
SFA and then within that the NAS.
Q191 Dr Iddon: Jim, the Committee
has the current 2008 March costs of running the LSC and the manpower
numbers here. Have you calculated the cost of running the NAS
and the manpower required for that, and will it be more or less
than the present structure?
Jim Knight: Stephen may have some
of the detail, but clearly when we bring this into legislative
effect, we will have to produce an impact assessment which will
set that out in some detail in respect of the SFA, the YPLA
and then how that works in respect of the NAS. Stephen, do you
want to come in here?
Mr Marston: In World-class
Apprenticeships we were very clear that the NAS would be a
bigger, better service than we have now. It will need more staff.
Very broadly, we are talking about a growth from about 250 now
to about 400 in future for the National Apprenticeship Service.
Yes, that part, the service that runs the apprenticeships programme,
will be bigger than the resource we have now, but it will be sitting
within the Skills Funding Agency. As Jim said, we are working
through how the known budget and headcount for the LSC is best
distributed between the Skills Funding Agency, including NAS,
Young People's Learning Authority and the 150 local authorities,
that is still discussion going on.
Q192 Dr Iddon: Will the NAS have
a regional structure, in other words, will it be dealing with
employers at a local level? Will it also be responsible for the
quality of apprenticeships?
Jim Knight: It will certainly
need to be able to relate to employers at the appropriate level.
It will need to be able to relate to employers nationally because
there are some, Rolls Royce, BT, those sorts of national employers,
where it is most appropriate to have that relationship at that
level, but equally at a regional and local level, working with
local education-business partnerships, but working in its own
right and working with skills brokers trying, as far as possible,
for employers to have a single conversation is the aspiration.
The skills broker brokers the needs of the employer and promotes
certain things to them and then can bring in expertise from the
NAS and bring in Train to Gain, the various things that we would
be offering employers.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: If
the initial contact is with the skills broker, once they identify
that what the employer needs is advice on apprenticeships, then
it will be a straight reference to the NAS and they will then
handle the requirements.
Q193 Dr Iddon: Measuring the quality
will be whose responsibility?
Jim Knight: With Rob's questions
we discussed how you have got the role of Ofsted's inspection,
but obviously NAS have the responsibilities in respect of both
the standard and the certification and then the Sector Skills
Council for the framework.
Mr Marston: The NAS themselves
will not be inspecting or reviewing quality, what we will have
through a development called Framework for Excellence is published
information about quality standards, success rates for all providers
and Ofsted reviewing the quality of the training programmes.
Q194 Dr Iddon: Are you expecting
the NAS to collect a whole spectrum of statistics which will justify
the new system being better than the present system in terms of
various things like training quality, improving take-up, progression
of apprentices through the different schemes and things like that?
Jim Knight: Undoubtedly there
will be a reasonable amount of data collection within the context
of our commitments in the Local Government White Paper and so
on. My guess is that in the end what people will look at is the
trajectory which was set out, culminating in the 2020 vision of
one in five young people in an apprenticeship.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: We
are currently measuring, are we not, starts and completions which
is in the report and we know they are significantly improving.
Completions have gone up from something like 23% to 63% over a
relatively short period of time.
We know what the targets are and if we are reaching those targets
in relation to completions, I think we are doing well. In terms
of the quality, what there will be is more rigorous blueprint,
so those frameworks have to conform to the more rigorous blueprint.
We hope for a better quality apprenticeship and, at the same time,
more successful in terms of the number of young people or mature
adult apprentices carrying on to complete their apprenticeships.
Q195 Chairman: Can I say first of all
to both you, Lord Young, and to Jim Knight, MP, there are a number
of questions we have not been able to ask, will you be happy for
us to write to you with those so we can get some brief response?
Jim Knight: Of course.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you
very much indeed, Lord Young, Jim Knight and Stephen Marston for
your presence before the Committee. We have enjoyed looking at
this draft Apprenticeship Bill. I think it is a good process.
We thank you very much indeed for your time.
16 Black and minority ethnic Back
Skills Funding Agency Back
Young People's Learning Agency Back
Note from the witness: "24% rather than 23%" Back