Minister reveals plans to improve apprenticeships

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Skills minister John Hayes has further outlined government plans to improve the quality of apprenticeships.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Hayes said today that he wanted to build on plans unveiled last year to improve apprenticeship standards and to ensure their value to candidates and employers.

Following the introduction of statutory standards for apprenticeships, Hayes announced a series of steps to improve overall quality, saying that the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) has been tasked with developing a plan to ensure that apprenticeships are of sufficient quality for employers and apprentices.

Hayes said: “The majority of apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training. They boost individuals’ life chances and build the skills that drive growth.

“We must be relentless in our drive to ensure all apprenticeships are as good as the best, to identify and root out any instances of poor-quality provision, and to raise the bar on standards.

“Following the introduction of the first ever statutory standards for apprenticeships, we’ve taken strong and decisive action to tackle short duration apprenticeships and review sub-contracting arrangements.”

The latest developments include the following details:

  • From August 2012, all apprenticeships for 16- to 18-year-olds must last for at least 12 months.
  • The NAS and the Skills Funding Agency’s review of short-duration programmes has resulted in improvements to many apprenticeships and the withdrawal of inadequate provision.
  • Safeguards are being put in place to strengthen monitoring, reporting and subcontracting arrangements, including publication of a list of all sub-contracted provision over £100,000.
  • New contracts will ensure that training providers not only act according to regulations, but also “within the spirit of the apprenticeship programme”.
  • A new inquiry panel has been established to manage poor-quality providers as soon as they are reported.

Hayes said that the following steps will be delivered in the coming months:

  • All adult apprenticeships will be monitored to ensure they are of sufficient length to deliver high quality training.
  • The NAS will undertake a review into apprenticeship frameworks that have been deemed a cause for concern.
  • Guidance on the implementation of quality standards will be published.
  • The Government will implement measures to ensure all apprentices are given the opportunity to get Level 2 English and Maths.

Simon Waugh, chief executive of the NAS, said: “Historically, growth in apprenticeships has been excellent but hasn’t always been matched by quality. The actions we are taking now are to clearly state expected standards, strengthen the processes of monitoring and assuring these standards and address any areas that fall short.

“Raising quality is not a quick fix but about defining a new era that firmly places apprenticeships as first rate vocational programmes offering higher level skills and qualifications in even more industries and sectors, supporting people into employment, boosting the skills of those already in work and bringing benefits to employers that invest in skills.”

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