Apprenticeships - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents


Last year, the Government invested £1.2 billion into the apprenticeship programme. The same year saw 457,200 people start new training as an apprentice. These figures demonstrate the significance and importance of the apprenticeship scheme to the UK economy. The skills development of our workforce is a key component of long-term sustainable economic growth. It is therefore vital that the apprenticeship programme is fit for purpose and delivers a workforce which reflects the needs of employers. In particular, the UK cannot be satisfied with only providing entry level apprenticeships. Together, Government, employers and schools need to be far more ambitious in expanding and delivering higher and advanced apprenticeships.

The Government has, rightly, made apprenticeships a priority. However, there remain areas of the apprenticeship programme which need reform. Our Report covers a wide range of issues relating to Apprenticeships including government policy, delivery and funding, the engagement of apprentices and employers, quality, value for money and objectives of the programme.

We support the significant increase in apprenticeships, but there is a risk that the rapid expansion may result in the programme becoming less focused. For that reason the Government needs to clearly articulate the overarching strategy and purpose of the apprenticeship programme. The introduction of a definition of apprenticeships would also ensure greater clarity within that strategy. In addition, the Government has to demonstrate value for money in the programme. As the Department acknowledged, there is insufficient data to inform decisions on where funds are best allocated. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

We also believe that the delivery programme is still too complex. The sheer number of organisations involved works against efficient allocation of funds. We argue that the Government should deliver a smaller and more efficient delivery system.

While we welcome the expansion in apprenticeship starts, the success of the apprenticeship programme should not be judged by numbers alone. At present, the National Apprenticeship Service's objectives are too heavily weighted on numbers. In the future, the quality of the programme should be seen as an equal priority, and should be assessed rigorously.

We also welcome the introduction of core transferrable skills into SASE, which have helped improve the quality of the programme. However, the development of functional skills should be a feature of, not a bar to, apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships should be an attractive option for school-leavers and we acknowledge that the Education Act 2011 requires schools to provide careers advice on apprenticeships. That said, there remains an underlying assumption that vocational training is only for those unable to take an academic route. This is wrong and must be changed. The academic route and the vocational route should be given equal prominence in careers advice. To address this inequity, we believe that the National Apprenticeship Services should be given statutory responsibility to raise awareness of apprenticeships within schools. The educational system is also needs to change to reflect the importance of apprenticeships. We therefore recommend that schools be required to produce information on apprenticeship starts alongside the number of students entering higher education.

We welcome the development of alternative models of delivery including Group Training Associations and Apprenticeship Training Agencies. These are employer-led and therefore have the potential to address the skills shortage experienced by business. The National Apprenticeship Service should have responsibility for promoting ATAs, support the expansion of innovative models and delivery and to ensure that they deliver high-quality programmes.

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 6 November 2012