Memorandum submitted by Airbus UK
1. Airbus UK welcomes the opportunity to
submit written evidence in respect of cross-border further and
higher education services. Our evidence is provided in the context
of an employer located in Wales near to the border with England
with the consequence of having two sets of policies, agencies
and funding models to consider when developing their learning
and training strategies.
2. We will provide evidence from an employers
perspective on the cross border provision of:
(a) Foundation Modern Apprenticeships
(b) Modern/Advanced Apprenticeships
(c) Higher Apprenticeships
3. Airbus UK has two manufacturing sites
in the UK, one in the south west of England in Filton near Bristol
and one in the north east of Wales in Broughton, Flintshire. Our
submission will reference concerns from an Airbus UK perspective
but concentrate on the issues faced by Airbus UK at Broughton.
4. The Broughton site has around 7,000 employees
of whom around 60% live in Wales. At present, we have 577 apprentices
with a further 100 apprentices planned to commence their employment
in October. This will take us to a situation where close to 10%
of our workforce is following an apprenticeship of some kind.
We also have a significant number of employees working on degree
5. The following is a breakdown of our current
(a) 209 existing employee apprentices following
a mixture of Foundation Modern Apprenticeships and Modern Apprenticeships.
These apprenticeships are for the development of our existing
workforce in relation to up-skilling, re-skilling or for personal
development and formal recognition of current skills
(b) 368 new entry apprentices follow Modern/Higher
Apprenticeships in different occupational areas dependent on our
(c) In addition, 61 individuals who have already
completed their Higher Apprenticeship are now completing their
Honours Degree in Aerospace Manufacture at Glyndwr University
6. Airbus Broughton uses two strategic partners/providers
for all apprentice programmes, one for Further Education and Work
Based Learning (Deeside College) and one for Higher Education
(Glyndwr University Wrexham). The Department of Children Education
Life Long Learning and Skills of the Welsh Assembly Government
(DCELLS) supports the funding of these programmes. We also use
Glyndwr University Wrexham for the delivery of our Aerospace Manufacture
and Aeronautical Engineering degree programmes.
7. Airbus also uses other HE providers to
support a number of different learning programmes across the UK.
8. Airbus sits on a number of UK advisory
groups whose remit covers cross border issues. These include the
"Four Nations Group" within our Sector Skills Council
(SEMTA) and the "Peoples Review" within the Society
of British Aerospace Companies. We are also represented on the
Mersey Dee Alliance.
Employer engagement with the system
9. Airbus would like to bring to the attention
of the Committee the concerns we have about several policy changes
that we consider could be a risk affecting our future skills strategy.
As a devolved administration Wales has developed its education,
learning and skills strategy independently from England. Employers
like Airbus that have a cross border business need to come to
terms with the differences between the two national strategies.
10. Airbus UK has developed it's own Skills
Strategy largely influenced by Lord Leitch's report "Prosperity
for all in a global economyworld class skills".
This was a report developed for the UK and as a result we felt
confident the agenda we set would not only deliver our requirement
but also that of the UK as a whole.
11. Airbus supports the concept of a devolved
system and recognises that there will some differences in policy
between the different administrations. We have been actively involved
with a number of pilots to test some of the innovative initiatives
being developed in Wales and as a result we have introduced the
Welsh Baccalaureate to our craft apprenticeship with great success.
12. Both UK and Welsh Assembly Governments
have now responded to Leitch and Airbus UK is confident we can
continue to develop our strategy taking into consideration what
each administration has set out. This however will not be straightforward.
13. There are some specific concerns around
the funding differences, which our training providers need to
observe whilst trying to apply an Airbus UK common strategy for
apprenticeship programmes. Our providers are working in very different
landscapes in England and Wales and Airbus UK has to recognise
this and adapt to these differences with the aim of providing
equal opportunity for all regardless of location.
14. A good example of this has been the
development of Adult Apprenticeships. Due to the Welsh Assembly
Government policy for "all age apprenticeships" Broughton
has developed a strong programme of both Foundation Modern Apprenticeships
(Level 2) and Modern Apprenticeships (Level 3). In Wales there
are no funding differences between an adult's apprenticeship programmes
or a young person's apprenticeship programme and our providers
are therefore able to treat them in the same way. However there
has not been the same funding support at our Filton site, which
causes our provider difficulty in meeting our requirement. Even
with the changes proposed in the DIUS Report "World Class
Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Skills for all", the
proposed funding changes for adult apprentices is only two thirds
that of an under 19 apprentice.
15. In addition to the funding anomalies
employers also need to be aware of other fundamental changes that
each administration is proposing such as:
Wales has one department covering
Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, whereas England
now has two departments one for Children, Schools and Families
and one for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
England has set out its strategy
through a number of documents and for example will put a Draft
Bill on apprenticeships before parliament this year. Within Wales,
the Welsh Assembly has set out a distinctive Welsh agenda through
"Skills that Work for Wales" that includes its
plans for apprenticeships.
England is to introduce a new participation
age for compulsory education to 18 years; this will provide an
apprenticeship place for all suitably qualified young people aged
16-18. Whereas Wales is going down a different route, which is
based around entitlement of learners to education up to 18 years
of age. The Welsh approach differs in that they believe the best
way to engage young people and employers is through encouragement
and support rather than compulsion and the creation of artificial
England has decided to put FE Colleges
back in the hands of Local Authorities whereas Wales is retaining
incorporation of FE Colleges.
England has developed the 14-19 Diploma
and Wales has developed the Welsh Baccalaureate. Wales has said
that it will be allowing the principle lines of Learning from
the diplomas to be incorporated within the Welsh Bacc but as yet
employers are not clear what this will look like.
Risks to the qualification system
16. There are proposals to the qualification
system that are being driven through in England that Scotland
has already stated they will not adopt and both Northern Ireland
and Wales have yet to respond to. There are fears from employers
that if there is not some common agreement we could end up with
an extremely confusing and disparate qualification system.
17. For employers like Airbus who employ
large numbers of apprentices, the changes being proposed are seen
as a significant potential risk. The Qualification Curriculum
Authority is proposing some fundamental changes that will need
to be fully understood. Airbus is in discussion with DCELLS to
ensure that we are fully briefed as to their position. The concerns
we have are as follows:
(a) NVQ as a type of qualification will cease
to exist in the Qualification Credit Framework (QCF), as the focus
will be on learning outcomes rather than competence and in the
future the only qualification types that will be available will
be Awards, Certificates and Diplomas no matter whether the qualification
is currently a NVQ, a technical certificate or any other qualification.
This suggests to us that a typical engineering/manufacturing apprentice
will have a number of diplomas. It will not be clear if each diploma
is an academic or a vocational qualification.
(b) We believe that Ofqual has suggested that
the "NVQ brand" would be allowed to stay in those sectors
that wish it. This however is not the same as having a qualification
on the QCF and there is a risk that the Assessment Strategy and
Code of Practice will no longer be part of the qualification.
Airbus is concerned that having the words NVQ will mean nothing
if the qualification behind it is different. This means that as
a result of the QCF every NVQ and possibly technical certificate
we currently have delivered will change thus causing Airbus and
other employers more confusion and our providers a serious amount
of work to come in line with the new qualifications.
(c) Although our Sector Skills Council (SSC)
will continue to put a version of the National Occupational Standard
into the QCF our understanding is that assessment strategies will
disappear and there is a real threat that SSC will no longer have
a mechanism to ensure consistency of delivery and quality amongst
awarding bodies and each awarding body will be able to produce
their own version of a pseudo NVQ.
(d) As NVQs are currently based on the National
Occupational Standards, developed by employers with a clear assessment
strategy and code of practice we feel this is a retrograde step.
(e) These changes will create serious confusion
amongst employers and concern that the NVQs that they know and
respect may not be the same in the future.
(f) With the QCF allowing different awarding
bodies to produce their own version of the same qualification
we are also concerned that we will lose the clarity and transferability
that NVQs currently have.
As stated previously Scotland is retaining it's
SVQs in the same format as we know them, and our concern is that
as yet, employers are not aware of the line the other devolved
administrations will be taking.
Risks to Apprenticeships
18. The introduction of a National Apprenticeship
Service (NAS) in England is one of the proposals that will have
an immediate impact on employers who have cross border business.
We believe that the NAS is being set up as part of a new agency,
which will replace the LSC. The establishment of separate delivery
agencies is not part of the policy agenda in Wales but we believe
they will be looking at what support is needed for apprenticeship
delivery in Wales as a part of delivering the Skills that Work
for Wales strategy and action plan. As mentioned previously, to
our knowledge WAG or DCELLS have not made a formal response to
the changes being implemented by Westminster Government or DIUS.
However Airbus considers the recent report on the developments
in apprenticeships by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee
as significant and we share some of their concerns as identified
in their conclusions on Page 9 of their report:
(a) That there is sufficient funding to meet
the proposed expansion of apprenticeships.
(b) The division of responsibility for apprenticeship
between two government Departments is not satisfactory.
(c) The new National Apprenticeship Service will
have difficulty-engaging employers as it will not be the initial
point of contact, this will be Train to Gain.
(d) The relationship between the NAS and local
authorities needs to be clarified.
(e) Much more needs to be done to involve employers,
especially SMEs, including providing all government funding directly
(f) A strong commitment to minimum levels of
off-the-job-training is crucial.
(g) The continuing lack of progression from apprenticeship
to higher levels of education must be addressed.
(h) The removal of Technical Certificates in
some sectors, there is a real risk of apprenticeships being perceived
as being "dumbed down".
(i) Action is required to ensure that schools
fully inform pupils about apprenticeships.
19. The following are also changes being
proposed by DIUS that will be England only initiatives unless
DCELLS follows their lead and implements the English strategies
in their response:
(a) A revised apprenticeship Blue Print will
(b) National Completion Certificate will be introduced.
(c) Changes in the quality assurance against
a revised blue print will be introduced.
(d) Integration of apprenticeships into the rest
of learning to enable easier movement between the new 14-19 diploma
(e) Introduction of a new delivery system, customer
facing National Apprenticeship Service.
(f) Creation of a dedicated field force to support
employers and apprentices.
(g) Significant staffing at regional and sub
regional level to manage relationships with other stakeholders
in the system, including working in partnership with local authorities
as they fulfil their obligations to young people.
(h) A director of apprenticeships will be appointed.
(i) There will be greater range and flexibility
(j) All apprentice experience will be recognised
as "an Apprenticeship".
(k) Direct incentives payments will be introduced.
(l) Government will be responsive to demand that
there will be additional funding for apprenticeships for those
aged 25 or over.
(m) There will be support for more employer "ownership"
(n) Public sector targets and duties will be
(o) The Government will promote Apprenticeships
in strategic projects such as the Olympics.
(p) Dedicated information channels will be set
up for Apprenticeships.
(q) Investment will raise the profile of the
(r) Clear progression routes to higher education
will be built.
(s) Positive action will be taken for under represented
(t) Pilots will be used to drive a "Critical
Mass" of underrepresented learners.
(u) "Super Mentors" will be appointed
to support under represented learners through their experience.
(v) Contractual wage regulations set by the LSC
will be fully enforced pending the results of the investigation
of apprenticeship wages by the low pay commission.
20. Until Airbus UK and other employers
fully understand what the Welsh strategy for apprenticeships entails
and how it will dovetail into the far reaching changes being proposed
in England we will not be able to fully develop our skills strategy
for the 21st century.
Student Recruitment and Retention
21. With regard to cross-border provision
of public services for Wales, the following are key areas where
our position as an employer located on the border of England and
Wales affects our recruitment and retention of apprentices:
Sifting and assessing of applicants.
22. In attracting apprentices to apply to
work for Airbus, we engage with the government-funded organisations
Careers Wales and Connexions, as well as directly with local schools
and colleges. This approach is effective in communicating our
positions to school-leavers, however teachers do not appear to
be influenced by careers advisors and careers advisors do not
appear to be as influential over more academic students.
There is awareness of this issue amongst careers
advisors, but an apparent lack of a coordinated approach, from
offices within England and Wales, and between Careers Wales and
Connexions, means that we are not seeing much of a change in attitude.
23. Apprenticeships still appear to be considered
by teachers and parents as an option for the less academically
able student, and careers advisors are seen to be there to support
the students who aren't academically capable of going on to further/higher
education. The marketing that we carry out with Careers Wales
and Connexions therefore, often doesn't reach the high-achievers
we want. We feel that this is a UK issue, rather than an English/Welsh
one, but one that could be better addressed with a common, coordinated
Careers Wales and Connexions approach.
24. In contacting Careers Wales and Connexions
to communicate our activities, we find we are repeating ourselves.
Firstly because the two organisations have split themselves into
regional offices and it is difficult to liaise with anyone centrally,
and secondly because there seems to be little or no communication
between the two organisations.
25. Any "grouped" careers fairs
are grouped according to the national borders. This approach does
not take into account the fact that as an employer located on
the border we are looking for candidates from England and Wales.
The approach of both Careers Wales and Connexions is very student-focussed
rather than employer-focussed and means that advisors are concerned
with finding roles for individuals rather than finding individuals
for roles. We are often therefore, dealing with candidates who
only just meet our minimum criteria. We feel that if careers advisors
were more in tune with what organisations are looking for, they
would push stronger candidates to apply for apprenticeships and
to consider us as an alternative route to further qualifications
to college or university.
26. Both Careers Wales and Connexions seem
to focus their marketing directly to students with their websites
and literature. We have found that to attract candidates to apply
to us, it is their key influencers, ie teachers and parents we
need to influence. It appears difficult for Airbus to influence
the thinking of these two sets of influencers, because of the
lack of a central or coordinated approach. At the local offices,
there seems to be agreement, but inability to influence at the
27. Independent of Careers Wales and Connexions,
we often market to schools and colleges directly. We also hold
Information Evenings when we invite students and their families
or friends onto site to find out more about the company and the
apprenticeships. More than 4,000 people attended in 2008. With
such activities, the differing school holidays from county to
county, as well as country to country, can make our marketing,
and the timing of the events themselves, harder to manage. Given
that we are on the border between Cheshire and Flintshire in Broughton,
and very close to South Wales in Bristol, we have a lot to take
into account if we want to ensure that we reach as many as possible
of the local students in England and Wales.
28. Skills that Work for Wales announced
that there would be a review of Careers Wales and employers are
waiting to see what exactly are the changes if any that will be
proposed. Airbus would like to see a restructured Careers Wales
to create a unitary organisation run by DCELLS with realistic
targets that are outcome rather than activity driven. We are aware
that WAG is currently working with Careers Wales to enhance Careers
Wales online to create a vacancy matching service, which will
enable employers to advertise vacancies and accept applications
online. It would be useful to explore how this will link with
the English vacancy matching service.
Sifting and assessment
29. We sift candidates according to whether
they meet our minimum entry requirements for both the Craft and
the Higher. These entry requirements are based entirely upon qualifications,
since the apprenticeship courses demand a certain academic level.
The new qualifications that are being introduced and the disparity
across England and Wales mean that sifting candidates will become
increasingly difficult. For us as a business to understand the
qualifications that applicants have and what that means in terms
of capability is increasingly complicated.
30. Generally over the last five years the
new entry apprentice programme in Broughton has attracted approximately
60% of starters from Welsh schools and 40% from schools outside
of Wales with the majority being from English schools. As you
may be aware our apprenticeship programmes attract applicants
from all over the world and within our current programme we have
apprentices who have come from Singapore, Australia, America,
France and Germany.
31. The apprentice intake for September
2008 in Broughton has 55% of apprentices from Welsh schools and
the others are mostly from England with one apprentices coming
from Scotland. Of those apprentices who come from England the
vast majority come from Cheshire and Merseyside.
32. Airbus is delighted with the current
arrangements for the delivery of our programmes through our partnership
with Deeside College and Glyndwr University and has worked hard
to develop robust partnership arrangements.
In Broughton we accept that we are based in
Wales and therefore will be subject to the skills strategy set
out by the Welsh Assembly Government. However we do have concerns
over the many changes in policy in both England and Wales that
will potentially affect qualifications, standards, frameworks
and apprenticeships in the future.
Communicating clearly these proposed policy
changes to ensure clarity of understanding by employers will be
vital to ensure that the skills agenda is met and that our workforce
is capable and equipped for the needs of our future business such
as new technology and our increasing build programme.
1 House of Lords, Apprenticeships: a key route to
skills, Fifth report of the Select Committtee on Economic
Affairs, Session 2007-08, HL Paper 138, page 9 Back