129.The previous Coalition Government introduced a requirement that all apprenticeships include a minimum of 20% off-the-job training. This was in response to fears that many lower level apprenticeships offered too little substantial training. Under the Government’s new funding system, only this form of training can be purchased using funds in levy-paying employers’ apprenticeship service accounts or via co-investment. In order to offer training, providers must join an SFA-managed Register of Training Providers. This is intended to ensure all providers are financially secure and capable of providing high quality training. Alongside the new register, Ofsted will continue to inspect and report on apprenticeship training provision up to level 3. Providers who have received an inadequate Ofsted rating for their apprenticeship provision are specifically excluded.
130.There was debate about how off-the-job training should be defined, with some evidence suggesting that technological changes meant far more training could now be offered in the workplace. In January 2017, Paul Warner, Director of Policy and Strategy for AELP, said that the exact definition had been a “bone of contention for years”. The Government’s draft guidance to the Institute describes it as “training which is outside of the normal day-to-day working environment”. Given the ongoing shift towards more flexible training methods it is important that the Government formulates a far clearer definition of what constitutes off-the-job training.
131.This issue could become increasingly salient if, following the introduction of the levy, more employers choose to provide their own training, something which the Government said it welcomes. Paul Joyce, Deputy Director for Further Education and Skills at Ofsted, praised the quality of training offered by established employer providers but expressed concern about a number of new employer-providers that had recently been inspected. Some witnesses suggested that more needed to be done to prepare employers to provide their own training, a criticism the Government accepted.
132.Professors Alison Fuller and Laura Unwin said that despite the wide-ranging nature of the Government’s reforms there has been “surprisingly little discussion about the role of inspection” in driving quality improvement. Some witnesses expressed concern about Ofsted’s role in the new system. The Federation for Industry Skills & Standards suggested that the nature of new standards—without qualifications and a clear sense of how the apprenticeship should progress—may make it difficult for Ofsted to judge the quality of training. Others questioned whether it would have the capacity to regulate the large increase in providers the levy may bring. Paul Joyce told us that Ofsted was concerned about this possible increase.
133.It is likely that that the Government’s ongoing changes to standards and funding will increase the volume, and in some cases the complexity, of Ofsted’s task.
134.We recommend that Ofsted develop and publish a clear strategy, and related guidance for training providers, setting out how it plans to inspect standards-based provision, in particular that provided by employer-providers.
135.The apprentices we spoke to emphasised the importance of good instruction and support in the workplace to the success of their training. A number of submissions we received agreed and provided examples of good practice. For example, the National Theatre told us that their apprentices “receive comprehensive additional support and training, such as mentoring, courses in ‘soft skills’ and personal development”.
136.However we heard that this was not always the case. Professor Ewart Keep, Director of Oxford University’s Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance, said that employers providing apprenticeships “need to take more ownership of the on the job element”. Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, expressed concern that the introduction of the levy may lead to employers recruiting more apprentices without having the capacity to properly support them. Some of our witnesses said that more should be done to spread best practice. Stephen Tetlow, Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, suggested this could involve the accreditation of schemes by professional and industry bodies.
137.If the Government’s reforms prove successful, far more employers will offer apprenticeships. It is important that they all have the knowledge and capacity to support and mentor these apprentices in the workplace.
265 BIS, , October 2013, para 64
267 The Institute will devise quality standards. DfE, , February 2017, para 4.2, SFA, , October 2016, p 1–2, 5
268 HM Government, , December 2015, para 2.24
269 Microsoft () para 17, Q165 [Neil Carberry]
270 “”, FE Week, January 2017
271 DfE, , January 2017, para 12
272 Q165 [Neil Carberry], DfE, October 2016, p 4, SFA, , October 2016, p 4
274 Qq168 [Ian Murray], 290 [David Hill]
275 Professor Alison Fuller and Professor Laura Unwin (), para 3.3
276 British Woodworking Federation () para 27
277 FISSS () para 35
278 NG Bailey () para 4.3
280 Crossrail (), summary, para 30
281 National Theatre () para 13
283 As above
30 March 2017