Parliamentary Report On Apprenticeships Welcomed

A new report by MPs on apprenticeships that was published this week has been welcomed by one of the qualifications awarding bodies.

SFJ Awards, which focuses on the emergency services and security sector, has praised the 11-point blueprint developed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Apprenticeships for its focus on urging the government to increase uptake of apprenticeships and emphasis on their role in enabling the country to ‘build back better’.

Writing in FE News, managing director of SFJ Awards Candace Miller said she was pleased with “the APPG’s call for sustainable funding, joined up policies and meaningful incentives”, which she said would enable the potential of apprenticeships to “serve as a pathway back into meaningful employment and training for so many in need, whether that be to upskill, reskill, or diversify”.

The recommendations in the report include using the upcoming Skills and Post-16 Education Bill to improve the provision of apprenticeships, as well as the establishment of a government-run one-stop shop to provide advice for small businesses on the process of taking on apprentices, and the equalisation of the apprenticeship wage with the National Minimum Wage.

On the issue of funding, the group called for the Department of Work and Pensions to “extend kickstart schemes into 2022”, while the Department of Education should offer “bespoke guidance” to both employers and apprenticeship training providers “on how T-levels, Kickstart and apprenticeships can provide benefits and complement one another”.

Most importantly of all, the group said that a review into funding “must ensure sustainable and long-term funding for apprenticeships to ensure that employers have the confidence to invest in their workforces and support the UK’s recovery from Covid-19”.

As well as providing plenty of money, the government has also been advised to offer greater flexibility in the case of the apprenticeship levy, in order to enable companies to “transfer or pool their resources” to improve the delivery of apprenticeships. 

Other recommendations included a further expansion of the role played in supporting apprenticeships by UCAS, the ongoing promotion by the Department of Education of the Apprenticeship Ambassador Scheme, more facilities for online learning and the inclusion of statutory training for employers and training providers to safeguard the mental health of apprentices.

The report reflected that the pandemic has halted progress in the uptake of apprenticeships, with a 19 per cent fall in their number over the course of a year, a decline it said should now be swiftly reversed as the UK emerges from lockdown in the wake of the vaccination programme.

An encouraging sign it highlighted was that a study from The Open University and the 5% Club. It noted that two thirds of firms taking on apprentices during the Pandemic managed to recover sooner.

Evidently, the committee sees apprenticeships as playing a key role in the process of economic recovery. Not only could a successful programme to do this help Britain get back on its feet; it will also provide a wealth of new opportunities for young people, many of whom will have feared for their prospects over the past 18 months.