Apprenticeships Contents

3The Institute for Apprenticeships

The role of the Institute

51.From April 2017, a new independent and employer-led body, the Institute for Apprenticeships, will take responsibility for the administration of large parts of the apprenticeship programme. Its main responsibilities will be setting quality criteria for apprenticeship standards and assessment plans, accepting or rejecting those submitted for approval, ensuring all end-point assessments are quality assured and advising the Government on the maximum level of funding that should be available for each standard.107 In July 2016 the Government announced plans to expand the Institute’s remit from April 2018 to cover technical education and rename it the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.108

52.The evidence we heard was generally positive about the creation of the Institute, but many echoed BT’s concerns that “there is little information available as to what this body will comprise, its governing powers or its relationship with employers”.109 Other witnesses criticised the short period of time the Government had given itself to set up a body that will play such an important role and suggested this could hinder its work, especially during its first months of operation.110

53.We heard widespread support for the principle of an employer-led body, but conflicting views on what this should mean in practice. People 1st, a tourism sector body, said that it is “critical that it is truly employer-driven and not merely employer-fronted” with “a mix of skillsets and experience from different levels and areas of businesses”.111 Some witnesses stressed the importance of involving small-businesses; others said that apprentices would not be adequately represented unless unions were given a larger role.112 Professor Alison Fuller, Professor of Vocational Education and Work at the University College London Institute of Education, told us that

there should be expertise there from employers, from expert providers, from professional bodies, from people who understand this landscape and are invested and committed.113

54.Views were mixed about how wide a remit the new body should be given. The Institute for the Motor Industry said it should “map out a full skills framework [ … ] to identify both upwards and horizontal progression”.114 In contrast Tech Partnership, a digital industry trade body, stated that “it should “orchestrate and oversee” with many functions devolved to sector level.115 Additional responsibilities suggested included monitoring gender balance, increasing completion rates and conducting research.116

55.A recurring question was how the Institute would relate to Government. In January 2016, Nick Boles MP, the then Minister for Skills, told us it would be much more arms’ length than was the case with other Government agencies.117 Subsequent evidence confirmed this.118 Professor Ewart Keep, Director of Oxford University’s Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance, told us that it was

important that the Government and the Institute draw up a very clear contract as to who is doing what, how they interact and what powers the Institute have and the degree to which they can and cannot act autonomously.119

The British Chamber of Commerce warned that employers would not accept a “rubber-stamping body”.120 Under the legislation which establishes the Institute, the Secretary of State is able to issue advice and guidance once a year.121

56.Some witnesses questioned how the Institute would work with other bodies such as Ofqual and Ofsted. Westinghouse Springfields Fuels Ltd asked “what sanctions might they hold against a detected lack of quality [ … ] and how does that interact with the presence of Ofsted?”122 Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the AELP (Association of Employment and Learning Providers), queried why the Institute rather than Ofqual, the government agency he said had expertise in assessment, will assess the quality of apprenticeship assessment plans.123

How the Institute will operate

57.In March 2016, Rachel Sandby-Thomas, a senior civil servant, was appointed as the organisation’s Shadow Chief Executive. Two months later it was announced she would leave her post in September 2017.124 In September, Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of the SFA (Skills Funding Agency) and EFA (Education Funding Agency), was appointed as Shadow Chief Executive on a part-time basis.125 The AELP commented that the appointment of Mr Lauener to a third leadership role “raises concern about capacity issues in the DfE and SFA”.126 Mr Lauener explained that

the job I have been given [ … ] is the job of setting it up [ … ] The board is being recruited right now and draft business plans are being discussed.127

58.In late 2016 more details emerged of how the Institute would operate. At launch the Institute will have around 60 employees—rising to roughly 90 as it takes on additional responsibilities—and a planned budget of £8 million.128 An estimated 250 to 300 employers—small, medium and large—will play a role in the standards approval process through their membership of route committees.129 A panel of apprentices from different sectors will report directly to the board.130 This was welcomed by Shakira Martin, Vice President (Further Education) of the NUS (National Union of Students), who called on the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Mr Halfon, to ensure “the board take the views of the panel seriously”.131

59.Despite confidence that further details would be announced “before Christmas”, the Government’s Draft Strategic Guidance to the Institute, the first of what will be an annual series of documents issuing advice and guidance, was not published until the beginning of January 2017.132 A three-week consultation was opened on the proposals, with a deadline set for 31 January 2017. Four days before this deadline, the Institute published its Draft Operational Plan and opened an additional four week consultation on its proposals.133

60.The draft strategic guidance and operational plan provided clarification on a number of issues and answered many of the concerns raised by our witnesses. Significant thought appears to have gone into their development and we welcome much of their contents. The Institute will exercise significant control over the standards development process, not simply approving standards but publishing occupational maps and commissioning new standards where gaps are identified.134 Much of this work will be done by 15 sector orientated route panels with an additional system of peer review for all standards.135 To aid the work of the Institute there will be a stakeholder group drawn from a “much wider group of sector leaders”.136 The Institute will also take responsibility for setting quality standards for new SFA-managed registers of training and assessment providers.137 The Government’s draft guidance recommends that the Institute establish a “Quality Partnership” with key partners such as Ofsted, Ofqual and the SFA in which it would take a leadership role.138 We will examine the Institute’s role in standards and training in greater detail in chapters 4 and 5.

61.The draft operational plan also provides further detail about how it will prepare to take on responsibly for technical education in April 2018 and how it will fulfil this expanded remit.139 The full details of the Government’s proposed reforms to technical education are outside the scope of this inquiry, but we do welcome moves towards a more integrated system that will be easier to navigate for learners, apprentices and employers alike. However, we question whether the Institute should be asked to take on so many further responsibilities so soon after its launch. We share the concerns of the AoC (Association of Colleges) that the new body may not have the capacity to fulfil all these obligations.140

62.The identity of the eight members of the Institute’s board were announced alongside the draft operational plan. Antony Jenkins—Shadow Chair since June 2016—was appointed permanent Chair on 27 February.141 The Board includes representatives of further education colleges, Trailblazer groups drawn from a range of sectors, and two former Commissioners at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The lack of representation for independent training providers was criticised by the AELP.142 It would have been helpful if members had been in place significantly earlier, but we broadly welcome the board’s composition. A permanent Chief Executive will be appointed later in the year, although we would urge that this should take places as soon as possible.143

63.While the Institute now looks to have a firm foundation, we remain concerned that important decisions seem to have been taken so late in the process. For example, the Institute’s operational plan states that sector panel members may not be in place until March 2018.144 A body tasked with so much responsibility should have had permanent management and clear direction long before its launch. The Institute’s task is too important for it not to be running at full capacity from day one.

64.The creation of the Institute is a welcome step towards building a world class apprenticeship system. It has had a rushed and therefore difficult beginning, and has a daunting array of responsibilities, but we have been reassured by recent announcements that it is now on the right track. It is crucial that it is fully operational as soon as possible and is given the tools to fulfil its promise.

65.We recommend that the Government carefully monitor whether the Institute has sufficient resources to fulfil its role and acts quickly to solve any emerging capacity issues.

66.We recommend that the Institute appoint a permanent Chief Executive as soon as possible.

67.The Government’s draft strategic guidance obliges the Institute to “operate within a wider Apprenticeship and Government context”: for example, the “Government’s desire to encourage the transition from the use of frameworks to standards”.145 This is a somewhat ambiguous direction, and not an uncontroversial one given the ongoing controversy over new funding rates for apprenticeship frameworks, an issue we will consider in more detail in Chapter 5.146 The guidance also requires the Institute to

make sure that in doing its activities to deliver high quality apprenticeships [to] also support achievement of the Government’s aim to deliver three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.147

Following the publication of the draft strategic guidance a Government spokesperson said that this will be “one of the Institute’s main jobs”.148

68.We are concerned that the Institute, a body with a clear mandate to protect the quality of apprenticeship standards and assessments, is also being asked to work towards the Government’s three million target. This risks incentivising quantity rather than quality. If the Institute proves successful in raising the quality of apprenticeships, they will sell themselves.

69.We recommend that the Institute should not be required to work towards the three million target. Its role should be confined to ensuring quality within the system. Its independence should be respected by Government.

108 BIS and DfE, Post-16 Skills Plan, July 2016, para 8.5

109 BT (APP 178) para 7

110 Qq 139 [Neil Carberry], 49 [Martin Doel]

111 People 1st (APP 128) para 15

112 Electrical Contractors’ Association (APP 120) para , TUC, (APP 45) para 8

113 Q39

114 Institute for the Motor Industry (APP 137) para 28

115 Tech Partnership (APP 150) para 22

116 Young Womens’ Trust (APP 82) para 15, Balfour Beatty (APP 167) para 6, AoC (APP 115) para 14

117 Oral evidence taken on 25 January 2016, HC (2015–16) 704, Q46

118 Q213

119 Q40

120 BCC (APP 138) para 10

122 Westinghouse Springfields Fuels Ltd (APP 19) para 10

123 Q63

125Shadow CEO for the Institute for Apprenticeships announced”, DfE, September 2016. Mr Lauener works two days a week as Shadow Chief Executive.

126Concerns raised over Lauener’s new IfA post”, FE Week, September 2016

127 Q212

128 HC Deb, 22 November 2016, col 8

129 As above, col 7 and col 10

130 HC Deb, 29 November 2016, col 145

134 As above, Executive Summary

135 As above, para 2.1.

136 As above

137 As above, para 4.2

140 Written evidence submitted to Technical and Further Education Bill Committee by the AoC (TFEB 12) part 1

142 As above

144 As above, para 6.3

146 As above, para 25, “Apprenticeship funding ‘u-turn’ – but how far does it really go?”, FE Week, October 2016

30 March 2017