Vocational Value: The role of further education colleges in higher education


Policy Exchange


“Gove is essentially implementing a programme developed for him in opposition by … Policy Exchange …” Prospect Magazine

Vocational Value: The role of further education colleges in higher education

Monday, 20 June 2011

Vocational Value: The role of further education colleges in higher education


There are many challenges facing the government and all providers of higher education and higher skills. This report looks at three problems, and argues that Further Education Colleges can play a strong role in responding to all three:

1) Higher education is not meeting the needs of employers: Higher education in further education is more vocationally focused and FECs are able to build on and exploit their strong relationships with local employers.

2) Not enough intermediate or ‘technician level’ skills: Higher education in further education provides for the delivery of vital intermediate and technical skills. Their distinctive offer is the delivery of so-called ‘short cycle’ higher education comprising Foundation Degrees, Higher National awards and professional qualifications – all below the level of the first degree and typically taking around two years to complete.

3) The costs of expansion: Short cycle higher education in further education is significantly cheaper than a full degree studied at university. As such, it provides an excellent opportunity to expand access to higher education and higher skills without incurring the costs attached to government loans of £9,000 a year for tuition fees.

Ralph Hartley Senior Research Fellow for Education, 2009-2011

For sale

If you would like a hard copy of this report priced at £10 + £3 p&p then please email: janet.batterbee

Research Areas


Contact Us

10 Storey’s Gate
London SW1P 3AY
T: 020 7340 2650
F: 020 7222 5859

Policy Exchange is an independent, non-partisan educational charity seeking free market and localist solutions to public policy questions.

Charity Registration Number: 1096300

Apprentices thrive in city – The Star Says – The Star


Apprentices thrive in city

Published: 05 March 2012

THE visit by members of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee could not come at a better time. For they are looking into the question of apprenticeships…and this visit comes hot on the heels of a drive in Sheffield to encourage local businesses to take on more apprentices.

THE visit by members of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee could not come at a better time. For they are looking into the question of apprenticeships…and this visit comes hot on the heels of a drive in Sheffield to encourage local businesses to take on more apprentices.

There is a long and proud tradition in Sheffield for people to enter their professions through this route, though they have become less popular in recent years.

And the current time, as the financial thumbscrews are being tightened around the local economy, fewer young people are being taken on as apprentices.

However, the city has held on to its tradition of recruiting young employees through the apprenticeship route and, judging by comments heard in recent weeks while the cause of apprentices was being championed across the region, their numbers are growing.

This is great news and we are sure that the committee members will leave Sheffield with plenty of ideas on how to give young people the all-important first step on the road to a rewarding career.

Charity’s work needs to continue

IT would be a real tragedy if the Victim Support charity is hit in any way by Whitehall plans to reform the criminal justice system.

Campaigners fear that the service could be cut, or even scrapped, under the provisions which suggest that local police and crime commissioners will be responsible for services provided to victims and witnesses instead of them being managed and overseen nationally, as at present.

If any proof were needed of the value of the Victim Support scheme, you have only to learn that last year it helped 7,415 people and we are sure that all of them would agree that it offers a vital service.

We hope that any changes that may be brought in will not affect the work done by the Victim Support charity in South Yorkshire.

Conference advert

TO many the contribution to the city’s economy from conferences is hidden from view. But it is nonetheless a valuable asset which is expected to bring in at least £2 million this year alone.

What is more conferences staged in Sheffield act as a great advertisement to delegates.

We are sure that once they have visited Sheffield and seen that it has so much to offer, many of them will be eager to return.

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

Apprentice scheme is Real deal | This is Staffordshire


Apprentice scheme is Real deal

A NEW training company has been launched to create jobs for young people and help companies take on apprentices.

Stoke-on-Trent College has set up Real Apprenticeships Ltd, which aims to make it easier for firms across North Staffordshire to recruit apprentices, with an initial focus on the construction industry.

The company is working with the contractors leading Stoke-on-Trent’s £250 million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which will result in 18 schools revamped and rebuilt by 2013.

Wates and Thomas Vale are looking for up to 14 local apprentices to support work on BSF contracts in the Potteries, which will give youngsters the chance to learn a trade in areas such as bricklaying, carpentry and plumbing.

The two companies are working together as a consortium to part-deliver the BSF programme.

Together, they will build or refurbish nine of the city’s 18 schools, including St Thomas More Catholic College; Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy; Trentham High School; the Discovery Academy and Birches Head High School.

Real Apprenticeships Ltd has been set up as part of the Government-backed Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) programme.

It will find the apprentices, match them with employers, and provide pre-apprenticeship training and interviews.

It will also be the employer, with companies paying wages for their recruits back to the college.

Andy Greenhough, director of employer engagement at the college, said: “Working this way we can take away the burden in areas such as HR, health and safety and selection of potential apprentices.

“We are working with the construction sector in the first instance, and in particular with the Building Schools for the Future partners in the city.”

Mr Greenhough, pictured below, said he believed the new company can play its part in furthering regeneration in Stoke-on-Trent.

The college has already run a pilot ATA scheme with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, which is providing entry level employment opportunities for fire-fighters and support staff.

The service’s training manager, Tim Wareham said: “One of our apprentices said he felt like he had won a golden ticket to a long-term career, and the enthusiasm generated by the apprenticeship programme is raising morale across the service.”

Is your firm recruiting apprentices? Email us at businessdesk

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

Chubb opens national Centre of Excellence for apprentices – News – Security industry news and information


Chubb opens national Centre of Excellence for apprentices

05 Mar 12

Chubb Fire & Security UK has launched a national Centre of Excellence for training apprentices such that the company can continue to develop the knowledge and skills of its workforce.

By Brian Sims

Partnering with Blackburn-based training provider Training 2000, Chubb – which, of course, is part of UTC Climate, Controls and Security, a unit of United Technologies Corporation – now offers a flexible apprenticeship scheme that’s scalable depending on the requirements of the business.

From its training facility in Blackburn, Training 2000 is currently delivering apprenticeships for 29 Chubb employees from across the UK in Level 2 Electrical Engineering and Level 3 Fire and Security, with plans to include apprenticeships in mechanical fire protection (sprinklers) at some point in the future.

Dave Millett, the head of learning and development for Chubb Fire & Security, explained how Training 2000 is helping to deliver its staff training requirements.

“Our apprentices are key to the long-term future of the business,” asserted Millett, “and we’re committed to helping those new entrants to the fire and security industry develop the right skills.”

He continued: “Working with Training 2000 allows us to scale the training appropriately in order to meet the current and future requirements of the business. We considered many training providers across England before choosing Training 2000 as our apprenticeship training partner, and have been impressed by the company’s experience and facilities.”

Steve Gray, the CEO of Training 2000, added: “It’s fantastic for us to be working closely with such a well-respected company as Chubb, and we’re very much looking forward to developing our offering in this sector to accommodate even more apprentices in the near future.”

Training 2000 is a certified Training Quality Standard (TQS) provider boasting “excellence in automotive, engineering and health”.

In 2011, Training 2000 was awarded Beacon status and also listed as one of the best places to work in the public/third sector in The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Places to Work.

Training 2000’s apprenticeships are renowned for their relevance to industry requirements, and the compamy’s completion rates exceed the national average.

“Apprenticeships face ‘identity crisis’”

The Forum of Private Business has warned a group of MPs that apprenticeships are facing an ‘identity crisis’, with business owners in certain sectors concerned that shorter schemes do not provide the same value as longer courses.

The Forum’s senior policy adviser Alex Jackman gave evidence to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ Select Committee’s inquiry into apprenticeships in the House of Commons on 1 March.

Jackman told MPs that shorter apprenticeships have faced criticism from UK business owners, particularly those in traditional industries such as manufacturing and engineering who argue they do not provide the same value as the longer schemes they run – despite evidence of their popularity among more service-orientated sectors such as retail.

“At a general level we have spent decades devaluing GCSEs, A Levels and degrees by making them easier to pass,” stated Jackman. “It’s just not acceptable to devalue apprenticeships in the same way.”

Jackman continued: “Apprenticeships are facing an identity crisis over how entrepreneurs view shorter courses. Business owners in more traditional industries often doubt their value relative to the longer schemes they run, and even question whether they should be branded as apprenticeships at all, but others – in retail, for example – see many benefits.”

As far as Jackman’s concerned, it is of course important that shorter apprenticeships are more than simply glorified training schemes, hitting businesses in the pocket for little in return. “We should guard against diluting courses so they fall below industry standards,” he urged, “but, providing these schemes are accredited, shown to address real skills needs and are well regarded, even as ‘entry level’ apprenticeships, then they should rightly be valued, protected and promoted.”

That said, he continued: “We do need more awareness of the differences between intense, four-year apprenticeships and shorter schemes, greater clarity about their applicability to businesses in different industries and more centralised information about where to source information, funding and courses.”

Central Government “could be more effective”

In its submission to the official inquiry, the Forum argued that central Government could be more effective in overcoming the lack of clarity over information about apprenticeships as a result of the numerous routes through which to seek advice.

The not-for-profit employer body welcomed recent improvements to the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), particularly its commitment to advertise a firm’s apprenticeship position within one month, place an apprentice within thee months and remove any Health and Safety requirements that go beyond national standards.

The Forum reported generally positive feedback on the NAS’ activities, including its national contract management, but noted some continuing problems associated with sub-contracting training and courses and called for more awareness of the breadth of professions running apprenticeship schemes – including services such accountancy as well as traditional sectors like manufacturing.

With resources scarce for small firms just now there’s a need for robust data and feedback on the effectiveness of courses to ensure quality control. Closer interaction between training providers and local businesses would be beneficial.

Further, the Forum believes that reinstating independent careers advice in schools and colleges would help develop a greater understanding of the value of apprenticeships within the education system.

In the interests of flexibility and meeting the specific needs of small businesses, the Forum has called for more incentives to encourage firms to take on apprentices, for example via tax breaks and building on the direct, employer-led funding initiative currently being piloted.

Forum research: valued apprenticeships?

Forum research suggests 46% of small businesses use day release and college training apprenticeships, 31% traditional ‘on-the-job’ training schemes and 26% work trials taking on long-term unemployed people on 30-day trials.

Barriers to taking on apprenticeships include red tape – with 22% of respondents citing Health and Safety regulations. Many business owners believe risk assessments lack ‘common sense’.

Employment law is also a major issue. In all, 78% of Forum members said they would be encouraged to take on more young people if was easier to let recent recruits go should they not work out, with 54% suggesting reducing red tape when recruiting and 74% lowering employment costs more generally.

In order to make training and skills more employer-focused, 25% of small businesses called for apprenticeships to be better tailored to their needs.

Further, 23% have called for tax cuts and 31% training vouchers.

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

The Work Foundation | Blogs | Graduate employability and the Mickey Mouse debate around degrees


Graduate employability and the Mickey Mouse debate around degrees

Last week it emerged that the unemployment rate was 25% for the 21-year-olds leaving university last year, compared to 20% of 18-year-old school leavers. There is a growing feeling amongst the public that widening participation in higher education has led to a proliferation of ‘mickey mouse’ degrees and a corresponding drop in the quality of graduates. In 2010 a YouGov opinion poll found that 52 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement “too many students are going to university now and it’s devaluing degrees”.

Worries over the link between widening participation and a perceived decline in graduate quality are still making headlines, most recently during the debate over the appointment of Les Ebdon as head of the Office for Fair Access. Commentators were quick to deride the nature and quality of courses available at the University of Bedfordshire, where Ebdon is Vice-Chancellor, and to brand his approach to access as a ‘model of mediocrity’. So should we be losing faith in the ability of universities to provide useful qualifications to everyone who wants them?

The Wilson Review, published earlier this week, takes a much more nuanced view of the links between student participation and the quality of degrees. The review makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving the way universities interact with businesses, with the employability of their graduates being a key component. Three areas of recommendation are demonstrative of the complexity of the issue.

Interestingly, the review suggests that demand for courses could improve courses if better information is made available to potential students. As part of a new all-ages career service to be rolled out later in the year the government plans to release ‘Key Information Sets’ to applicants. Information on the practicalities of student life at a given institution, such as the cost of accommodation, is mixed with data compiled by Higher Education Funding Council for England on the proportion of leavers who are in graduate jobs within six months. The review has some concerns about the quality of this data, suggesting that there are problems both with HEFCE’s definition of graduate employment and the importance of this as an indicator of outcomes. But providing more information on employability outcomes to graduates can only be a good thing. Accurate and relevant data should provide an incentive for universities to act to boost employability in order to attract the best applicants.

How might universities achieve this? One solution is the wider provision of university-supported work experience. The review recommends paid internships be offered to all students and proposes measures for increasing the number of sandwich courses. Another approach is to incorporate the teaching of relevant workplace skills into the curriculum. This need not be separate from the core degree course, examples being presentation or case-study based assessments. Finally, the report recommends offering greater support to bodies that promote entrepreneurship such as the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs.

Employers themselves are urged to improve the filtering mechanisms by which they match applicants with positions. The concern here is that to some extent companies are not learning from past mistakes when it comes to the criteria they use to recruit, leading them to lament the quality of graduates even while dismissing suitably qualified candidates out of hand. Common filters include stipulating a 2:1 grade or a given number of UCAS points. While such measures certainly reduce the cost burden of sifting through applications extra-curricular activities which indicate strong employability skills are discounted, and in the case of UCAS points in particular there is a risk of disproportionately eliminating able applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The above recommendations could form the three pillars of a virtuous cycle in improving graduate employability. Where a course is particularly effective in conveying vital skills, an employer will recruit its graduates. If school-leavers are better informed of such outcomes this will increase demand for the most employer-friendly courses, hence pushing universities to match their offerings to employer needs. Such a mechanism could prove an effective test of newer degree courses as well as some traditional ones, and ultimately lead to a better fit between the skills of our graduates and needs of our businesses.

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

Pocket Watch – Update on Quality in Apprenticeships | Pearson Centre for Policy and Lea rning


Pocket Watch – Update on Quality in Apprenticeships


This week John Hayes provided a further update on steps being taken to ensure quality in apprenticeship programmes. The government is clearly taking the issue seriously; at least one case of ‘short duration’ has been referred to the Special Investigation Unit and the Minister is setting up his own special panel so that any future cases can be reported directly to him


It’s just over two months since the Minister announced his Quality Action Plan for Apprenticeships. At the time, he was responding to concerns about the nature, duration and legitimacy of some apprenticeship programmes arising in some cases out of a rapid growth in apprenticeship numbers. The Action Plan set out certain ground rules including an expectation that programmes for 16-18 year olds should extend for at least 12 months, that English and maths provision would be made available and that further quality reviews would follow. Much of this is under way, the SFA for instance announced a couple of weeks ago that it expected all providers to commit to a minimum programme duration of at least 12 months for 16-18 year olds as soon as possible and certainly by 1 August this year. In addition, a new certification process is now in place, the NAS is looking at the relationship between funding and actual delivery and the Select Committee Inquiry is under way. But concerns still linger and indeed a recent report on sub-contracting and alleged malpractice in some welfare to work contracts have only served to heighten the pressure

So what did the Ministerial Statement cover?

  1. Short duration programmes, those that run for a few months or in some reported cases, just a few weeks. This is not a straightforward issue, some sectors require more ‘training’ time some less, some apprentices come with more prior knowledge, some less but there’s clearly been concern about programmes of just a few weeks. Two things are now happening in response. First, a major review of all short duration programmes is being undertaken by the NAS and SFA and is due to complete by April. 87 cases have been examined with cases involving 10 primary and 3 sub-contractors still to be resolved. Second, the NAS is reviewing how far a minimum duration should extend to adult aprenticeships
  2. Subcontracting arrangements. Not a new issue but always a tricky one as the current Work Programme is finding out. The issue is how to ensure that as elements of provision are parcelled out, the same diligence and quality assurance is maintained. In trying to tighten up the delivery chain model, the Minister has gone for clearer guidelines, stricter minimum levels of performance and greater transparency with all sub contracted provision over £100k being published by the SFA from this month and breeches publicly exposed. In addition a new contractual clause, following not just the regulations but the intent, will be added
  3. Further steps. In a sense a lot hangs on the series of reviews that are now under way. However, it’s worth noting that the NAS will be publishing a revised, and no doubt stricter, Quality Delivery Statement, further guidance on the SASE will follow and of course Ofqual will be undertaking its review of the adult quals market

Steve Besley
Head of Policy (UK and International)

Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning

Print Friendly

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

BBC News – Reading and Leeds festival apprenticeship scheme launched


Reading and Leeds festival apprenticeship scheme launched

18 February 2012 Last updated at 10:11

Reading Festival 2011 main stageThe apprenticeships offer a chance to work for Reading and Leeds festivals

Young job seekers have been invited to apply for England’s first music festival apprentice scheme.

Reading and Leeds festival boss Melvin Benn has set up two paid 12-month posts to work for both live music events.

Mr Benn, who has also set up 10 three-week internships, said he was reacting to unemployment figures – the UK jobless total is at a 17-year high.

He said: “As somebody who runs a company whose primary target is young people, I wanted to respond to it.”

Mr Benn, who runs the live events company Festival Republic, will offer apprentices and interns a chance “to see how things work behind the scenes”.

Applicants must be between 18 and 25 years old.

‘Not free labour’

Placements will include work in production, artist liaison, marketing, social media and ticketing as well as on site roles.

“Work is clearly tougher for young people at the moment compared to 10 years ago and even five years ago,” said Mr Benn.

He dismissed the idea the internships were “free labour” and said the placements were additional posts to his workforce, not filling vacancies.

Reading East MP Rob Wilson said he “congratulated” Mr Benn on the placements.

He added: “With so many young people facing a challenging time getting a job, it’s important that companies are prepared to give them an opportunity to get their foot on the first rung of the ladder.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK unemployment rate was 8.4% in the three months to December.

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

So You Want To….take on an apprentice – 3/2/2012 – Farmers Weekly


So You Want To….take on an apprentice

Apprenticeships offer a structured route into agricultural work, building skills and experience to the benefit of employee and employer. Robyn Vinter reports

How does it work?

An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme designed around the needs of an employer and leading to a nationally recognised qualification.

Agricultural apprenticeship numbers have doubled in England over the past three years to 850 in 2010-11, but more employers are needed if this trend is to continue.

Farming apprentices follow frameworks designed by Lantra with compulsory and optional components. They are encouraged to choose components that fit with their farmwork, while other elements can be studied at college.

Apprentices usually work on the farm four days a week and go to agricultural college for the remaining day to study elements such as health and safety, employment regulations and working relationships.

A mentor from an agricultural college provides support to both apprentice and employer, with most assessment carried out on the farm, roughly every 10 weeks.

Agricultural apprenticeships tend to last 18 months and a minimum of 530 guided learning hours are needed to complete the course, including time spent both at work and at college.

The employer signs a contract to commit to 18 months but has no responsibility for their apprentice after that.

What are the benefits?

• Agriculture has a people and skills shortage – work-based learning is a practical way for those entering the sector to gain necessary skills and knowledge

• With 41% of agricultural workers older than 50 and the key decision-maker on farms aged about 55, the industry needs to attract new and younger workers, says Lantra

• Apprenticeships can guarantee a skilled workforce, whether taking on an apprentice or hiring someone who has completed an apprenticeship elsewhere

• Equipping and training staff and giving them new responsibilities can help increase productivity and minimise staff turnover and workplace accidents

• For 16 to 18-year-old apprentices, the government pays the cost of college-based study

• A 2008 study for the National Apprenticeship Service found 77% of employers thought apprenticeships made their business more competitive, 76% that they increased overall productivity, 88% believed that apprentices led to a more motivated and satisfied workforce and 83% relied on apprenticeships to provide skilled workers for the future.

What are the responsibilities of the employer?

Employers must provide apprentices with an induction and on-the-job training.

Apprentices should be treated like any other employee and are subject to the same regulations such as working time, health and safety, equality laws and should be given at least 20 days’ annual paid holiday a year as well as bank holidays.

What are the costs? Is there any funding?

The National Minimum Wage for agricultural apprentices is £3.57 an hour, nearly £1 more than the minimum wage for other types of apprentice. This increases with age and after one year rises to:

• £3.68 for 16 to 17-year-olds

• £4.98 for 18 to 20-year-olds

• £6.08 for over 21s

The National Apprenticeship Service can cover some or all of the cost of the mandatory training part of the apprenticeship scheme, which is usually studied at college.

• Up to 100% for 16 to 18-year-olds

• Up to 50% for 19 to 24-year-olds

• Contribution for specified places for over 24s

Employers of 16 to 24-year-olds can also get an apprenticeship grant which helps small and medium-sized businesses with paying an apprentice’s salary. Each grant is worth £1,500, paid in two equal instalments at eight weeks and at 12 months.

What holds employers back from taking on an apprentice?

Alastair Johnston, industry advisory board member at Lantra and member of the AgriSkills forum, thinks farmers are put off taking on an apprentice because they perceive it takes a lot of time, money or organisation.

“You do have to spend some time training an apprentice, but once you have shown them the ropes they’re able to complete many of the more repetitive tasks on their own, freeing-up some time for you to spend on other areas of your business or give you a better work/life balance.

“Many farmers think they cannot afford to take on another member of staff full-time and prefer to take on seasonal workers. The difference with an apprentice is that their education, skills and training are tailored to your business, meaning you get a great deal of consistency and problems are much easier to foresee. If you bring in someone ad hoc you may not always be sure you can rely on them and by the time any problems occur it might be too late.

“If you’re concerned that you don’t have enough work, or a broad enough range of jobs for an apprentice you can set up an Apprenticeship Training Agency with other local farms and share the apprentice. Lantra can help with setting these up and can put you in touch with others in your area who want to take part,” Mr Johnston said.

How do I get involved?

Some apprentices already know their employer through work experience, family connections or being a current employee, but many apprenticeships are arranged by agricultural colleges.

“If an employer’s interested, the first thing they should do is give the college a call and we’ll try and match their needs to a student we’ve got,” says David Lamb, head of agriculture, countryside and gamekeeping at Plumpton College.

“Then we’ll send someone out to do a health and safety assessment of the farm and once we’ve got a suitable candidate we’ll get them signed up on a contract.” Although there is currently no shortage of workplaces for Plumpton College students, having more places available would mean that apprentices could be better matched to farms.

• For more information on apprenticeships visit http://www.lantra.co.uk/Standards-and-Qualifications/Apprenticeships.aspx or contact your local agricultural college.

Funding future faces further formulation | FE Week


Funding future faces further formulation

Implementation of a new streamlined and simplified funding system for adult skills that had already been delayed until 2013/14 has suffered a further setback, following a rethink on how apprenticeships might be funded.

A newly formed Skills Funding Agency advisory group has been meeting monthly since December, and has said plans to fund apprenticeship provision based on individual frameworks, rather than component learning aim level, requires further testing.

Chris McLean, vice principal of North Hertfordshire College and member of the Funding External Technical Advisory Group told FE Week: “Only two areas related to basic skills and apprenticeship rates have more work to be done and on both counts it’s the work and scrutiny of the group that is asking for extra detailed modelling to be undertaken to satisfy ourselves that the new system will work at the organisation level as well as for the sector as a whole.”

A document published this week by the SFA, entitled ‘A New Streamlined Funding System for Adult Skills’, says “following advice from the Funding External Technical Advisory Group we are reviewing this [apprenticeship funding]. We are continuing to consult and develop our approach to simplify apprenticeships funding and align it to the principles across the rest of the Adult Skills Budget.

“As a result we now expect to be able to publish the principals and rates for funding Apprenticeships no later than May 2012.”

The first version of the funding reform document was published in October 2011 and included a plan for ten apprenticeship framework funding rates within the ‘learning aim rates matrix’ of 30 rates.

This updated version now excludes apprenticeships, and the remaining provision has doubled to 40 rates.

Mick Fletcher, a visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Education and consultant, says the document shows that the government is struggling to streamline or simplify the funding system for adults.

“Once again simplification proves not to be as easy as the Department thought,” Mr Fletcher said.

“They are still struggling to accommodate basic skills, and can’t yet work out how apprenticeships fit; and they didn’t even try to cover safeguarded learning.

“The reason for the difficulties just might be that it’s not really about simplification at all, but about imposing a centrally determined, price based funding system instead of one that carefully reflects colleges’ costs.”

David Hughes, chief executive of NIACE and until recently the Director of Provider Services at the Skills Funding Agency, said: “We want to work closely with the government and the SFA to try and get a system which has the right sort of incentives for people who it should support and help them not only get into learning, but to succeed as well.

“We want to make sure that any changes do not disadvantage certain types of learners and that those changes recognise the very diverse needs of different learners in different situations.”

The SFA proposals also appear to scrap well trailed plans for Outcome Incentive Payments, and replace them with the piloting of a payment to the provider of half the 20 per cent of achievement funding where eligible unemployed learners prematurely leave their course to get a job.

The document reads: “Job outcome funding will be piloted in 2012/13 using the existing funding models, with 10 per cent job outcome funding where a learner leaves and enters work without achievement of the learning aim.

“This is straightforward in workplace learning, however, in classroom learning the funding will be factored into the year-end reconciliation.”

Plans are also outlined for introducing a funding cap for apprenticeship learners. The report states: “An annual funding cap of £4,400 (applied to the unweighted rate) per learner will be piloted during 2012/13 shadow working.

“The level of an annual funding cap for Apprenticeships is still being considered as part of the work set out above.”


Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

Minister presents update on apprenticeship quality | FE Week


Minister presents update on apprenticeship quality

The skills minister John Hayes has told partliament that the review into short duration apprenticeships is due to be finalised by April.

A total of 87 providers have so far been reviewed by the Skills Funding Agency and National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) for running programmes which last six months or less.

However, 29 have been brought to a “satisfactory conclusion” and the review has identified 10 primary contractors and three subcontractors where the Agency and NAS have unresolved concerns. At least one case has been referred to the Agency’s Special Investigations Unit.

However, the Agency said: “We are working with providers to review and adapt programmes as necessary and whilst this is ongoing it would not be appropriate to release in detail.”

The Agency also said three frameworks are under review, adding: “We are working with the relevant Sector Skills Councils to ensure these will meet the criteria that apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds should have a minimum duration of 12 months. The wider next steps and ongoing review will continue to be done in consultation with providers, sector and issuing authorities.”

The news came as part of Mr Hayes’ statement to parliament on progress to drive up quality, as well as introducing new measures for the coming months. Among those is a new ‘enquiry panel’ which has been set up to “manage contractual and quality failure” as soon as it is identified.

The panel, made up of representatives from the Agency and the NAS, has met once and will report to the minister.

Mr Hayes said: “The majority of apprenticeships are the gold standard in vocational training.

“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.

“I am determined to build on this momentum and go further so as more people than ever have the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship, every one will receive the high quality training they deserve.”

Another new measure will be a requirement for sub-contractors with an aggregate contract value of more than £500,000 to pass a due diligence test.

An Agency spokesperson said the move has been made to “strengthen our oversight and management of the wider training provider organisation network”.

The spokesperson added: “This does not remove or reduce the responsibilities or due diligence processes exercised by prime training organisations when selecting or managing their subcontractors.

“If a subcontractor fails to pass the Due Diligence Assurance Gateway, we will review and alert prime contractors. Prime contractors may continue with the subcontractor, but such failure would signal the need for additional checks and a higher level of diligence, monitoring and review on the part of the prime contractor.”

The Gateway process is made up of two parts; an online questionnaire and an assessment of financial health based on latest accounts.

However, the spokesperson added: “The Agency is currently working with the sector in considering all subcontractors completing the Due Diligence Assurance Gateway of the Register regardless of size of contract.

“All subcontracting must meet the same delivery, quality and value for money as the rest of our provision. The Agency is working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to review its policy on sub-contracting and will set out its intentions to the sector once a formal position is agreed.”

Simon Waugh, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, said “sound progress” is being made.

He 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.”


Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920