1.Following the 2015 General Election, the Government set a target of 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020 and announced plans for a new Apprenticeship Levy on large employers to begin in April 2017. The Enterprise Act 2016 introduced greater legal protection for the term ‘apprenticeship’ and established the Institute for Apprenticeships (the Institute): an independent employer-led body tasked with administering apprenticeship standards. This followed steps taken by the previous Coalition Government to tighten the definition of apprenticeship and invite groups of employers called Trailblazers to develop new apprenticeship standards to replace the previous system of frameworks.
2.As members of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills and Education Committees, we came together in December 2015 to form the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy. Our aim was to bring greater co-ordination to the scrutiny of education and skills policy and its impact on the economy. Following our inquiry into careers education, information, advice and guidance, we chose apprenticeships as the subject of our second inquiry: an area of policy that straddled the Departments of Business, Innovation and Skills and Education. In July 2016, full responsibility for apprenticeships was transferred to the Department for Education after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was replaced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In a recent consultation document, the Government “emphasised the importance of a new industrial strategy to support and promote UK productivity” and stated that “apprenticeships will be an important part of this”.
3.In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The nature of our country’s future relationship with the EU is unclear, but possible restrictions on the ability of UK employers to recruit skilled employees from its member states may further increase the importance of high quality technical and professional education to the country’s future economic success.
4.In March 2017, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee considered the Government’s emerging industrial strategy. It found proposals relating to skills policy to be disappointing. Last year the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee examined apprenticeships during its inquiry into the Government’s Productivity Plan. It called on the Government to set out its reasons for setting an apprenticeship target. During the last Parliament both our predecessor committees conducted inquiries into apprenticeships. In its 2012 Report, the previous Business, Innovation and Skills Committee supported the Government’s expansion of the apprenticeship programme despite misgivings about the lack of clear overarching strategy. In its 2015 Report, the previous Education Committee welcomed the Government’s efforts to increase the number of high quality apprenticeships available to young people but expressed concern that too few 16 to 19 year-olds were taking up these opportunities.
5.Our inquiry was launched on 12 February 2016. We received 184 written submissions and held five oral evidence sessions hearing from seven panels of witnesses, including the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, the Rt Hon. Robert Halfon MP. We also held an engagement event with around 30 apprentices employed in different sectors of the economy and pursuing different levels of apprenticeship, and a private meeting with experts and stakeholders. We are grateful to all those who contributed to our inquiry.
6.Skills policy is a devolved matter and unless otherwise stated our Report considers England only. An important exception to this is the Apprenticeship Levy which will be implemented across the United Kingdom.
7.Our Report is divided into five main parts:
1 Cabinet Office, , May 2015, HM Treasury, , HC (2015–16) 264 , July 2015, para 1.270
2 Enterprise Act 2016,
3 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, , October 2013, Section 3
4 Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, First Report of Session 2016–17, , HC 205
5 HC Deb, 18 July 2016,
6 Department for Education, , January 2017, para 10
7 Electoral Commission, “”, accessed 22 February 2017
8 Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Second Report of Session 2016–17, , HC 616
9 Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, Second Report of Session 2015–16, , HC 466
10 Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2012–13, , HC 83-I
11 Education Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2014–15, , HC 597
12 Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, “”, February 2016
13 See Witnesses and Published written evidence for further details.
14 See Annexes 1 and 2.
15 DfE, “”, accessed 22 February 2017
30 March 2017