Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Written evidence submitted by The Association of Colleges (AoC) (WRW 13)


The Association of Colleges (AoC) represents and promotes the 335 colleges in

England including 242 further education colleges (FE) and 93 sixth form colleges incorporated under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

Further education (FE) colleges provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. They prepare over three million students with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities.

Colleges are inspirational places to learn because education and training is delivered by expert teaching staff in industry-standard facilities. From basic skills to postgraduate degrees, colleges offer first rate academic and vocational teaching, in a range of professions including engineering, hospitality, IT, construction and the creative arts.

Sixth form colleges provide high-quality academic education to 16 to 18-year-olds enabling them to progress to university or higher level vocational education.

Some key facts about colleges’ contribution to the apprenticeships agenda:

· Colleges trained 34.5% of apprentices in 2013-14, equating to 294,000 apprentices in all.

· Every FE college is involved in delivering apprenticeships.

· The average college trained 1,200 apprentices in 2013-14.

Colleges support the Government’s ambitious agenda for three million apprenticeship ‘starts’ before 2020. However, there also needs to be recognition that apprenticeships are not the only answer to meeting the nation’s skills needs.


Clause 2: Apprenticeship reporting obligation amendments

Purpose: Clause 2 as drafted places a duty on Ministers to issue progress reports on how the Government is performing against the manifesto pledge. Although subsection (1) (b) of new Section A8 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 says Ministers can include ‘any other information about apprenticeships’ that they deem appropriate, colleges would like to see the minimum level of information defined to ensure the quality and quantity of apprenticeships is maintained.

Content of the Secretary of State’s report

We note amendment 75, tabled by Stephen Timms MP, Kate Green MP and Chris Leslie MP:

Clause 2, page 1, line 16, at end insert-

"(aa) information about the uptake of apprenticeships broken down by region,

gender, age, ethnicity, disability, sector, qualification and level,

(ab) a report by the UK Commission on Employment and Skills on the quality

of apprenticeship being provided, and"

The Association of Colleges supports amendment 75 because it would ensure more detailed information (in addition to the overall target) is included in the Secretary of State’s report to Parliament.

For example, the age of apprentices is important because the majority of the rapid increase in apprenticeships in recent years has been amongst those aged over 24 rather than young people. Any updated figures should therefore provide an age breakdown to identify which age groups are doing better than others.

There are particular issues regarding gender too. Some apprenticeships are primarily taken up by males or females [1] . For example, of the 15,550 engineering apprentices in 2013/14, only 590 were female. Of the 70,080 health and social care apprentices, 11,350 are male [2] . In relation to ethnicity, the latest statistical first release confirms only 7.4% of apprentices are black or Asian [3] .

Within the apprenticeship reporting duty, colleges would also like to see information included regarding the proportion of employers which are offering an apprenticeship. To reach the three million target, there will have to be a sea change in the proportion of businesses which offer apprenticeships. Currently only 15% of employers do so [4] . It is important to note that the proportion is lower amongst small and medium sized employers.

It is also worth noting that apprenticeships are essentially a job with training so are therefore only available to a certain proportion of the population. For example, a person’s current or prospective employer must be willing to allow them to start an apprenticeship, you must be employed full-time (i.e. those who work part-time are not eligible). Therefore, the Government should also report on the number of non-apprenticeship adult education and training places in each reporting period, by way of assessing whether there are sufficient places available to meet demand.

The legislation also provides an opportunity to recognise the importance of provision for students with special educational needs (SEN). We support the position of the Special Education Consortium, of which we are a member, in asking for a target of the number of apprentices with SEN to be included within the three million target.

Workless households and educational achievement reporting obligations amendments

The Bill places a duty on Government to report on the educational achievement of children in ‘workless households’ in England, as compared to all children in England. Colleges welcome this proposal as it will give greater focus to those who require greatest assistance. However, we think Ministers should go further.

As drafted, the clause only requires Government to report on educational achievement at the end of Key Stage 4, which is that completed by 16-year-olds, usually GCSEs. It does not take into account that from autumn 2015, every young person has to remain in education or training until their 18th birthday. These two years of education, whether in college, school sixth form or an apprenticeship, is now compulsory, so it would seem logical to include it within Ministers’ reporting duties.

September 2015

[1] Statistical First Release, www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fe-data-library-apprenticeships

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey 2014, November 2014

Prepared 11th September 2015