In 2012/13 alone, more than half a million new Apprenticeships were started with more than 200,000 employers. Demand for Apprenticeships has also increased, with figures from the National Apprenticeship Service showing there are on average 11 applications for every vacancy for the first time, with figures having previously hovered around 10. This figure rises to 17 in some industries such as IT and media.
The rising demand for Apprenticeships in recent years has made it clear while progress in supporting apprentices and the employers who take them on has been good so far, more needs to be done to ensure that standards continue to improve, demand for positions can be met and the needs of both employers and apprentices continue to be met.
To help achieve this, the government invited entrepreneur, School for Startups founder and former Dragons’ Den investor, Doug Richard, to look at how Apprenticeships can be developed in the future to meet the needs of the changing economy. The findings of Doug Richard’s review were published in November 2012 and the government responded to his recommendations in the form of a consultation earlier this year, setting out its long-term vision for Apprenticeships in ’The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Next Steps from the Richard Review’. This document invited employers, individuals and organisations including ourselves, to offer their opinion on the practical steps needed to turn this vision into a reality.
The responses, which were due in last month, will be considered by the government in the coming months and influence the future approach to Apprenticeships which will be revealed in the autumn.
We take a look at some of the key recommendations outlined in the Richard Review and the government’s thoughts on them so far, and what this means for businesses.
The government emphasised the importance of making it completely clear exactly what an Apprenticeship should be, suggesting the term is redefined to target people who are new to a job or role and are working towards a job which will require sustained and substantial training.
The review also suggested that more Apprenticeships should target higher achievement to Level 3 and beyond.
By creating a clearer definition of what an Apprenticeship is, employers can be confident they are taking on apprentices who are prepared for the workplace and will add value to their business.
Clear, effective and trusted qualifications need to be the staple of Apprenticeships, according to the Richard Review. If recognised industry standards are at the heart of Apprenticeships, employers will be able to clearly see what apprentices should know and be able to do at the end of their training.
The review also calls for one Apprenticeship qualification per occupation rather than a package of qualifications and says employers should lead in designing and developing these qualifications.
To ensure the training and qualifications offered as part of Apprenticeships better meet employers’ needs now and in the future, we support the recommendation for a standards review panel or similar for employers so their input is not merely confined to when new standards are developed but Apprenticeships continue to meet the needs of the changing economy.
Boosting English and maths skills
Boosting maths and English skills is already a major part of Apprenticeships and while the government has not gone as far as to implement the Richard Review’s recommendation all apprentices achieve level 2 in both subjects before completing their qualification, all apprentices will be required to work towards level 2 from August 2014.
All apprentices must complete level 1 before completing their Apprenticeship and this may be extended in the future.
By emphasising the importance of Functional Skills in English and maths, apprentices will be equipped with the essential skills they need for their working life. For employers, having a workforce with the right skills, particularly good levels of maths and English, is essential to boosting productivity and remaining competitive.
People learn in different ways, which is why the Richard Review recommended Apprenticeships aren’t too prescriptive.
While every Apprenticeship should be tailored to the individual, it is also important there are appropriate safeguards in place to protect apprentices against poor quality training and Richard suggests a minimum duration is sensible. Currently, the minimum duration for an Apprenticeship is a year, although many employers see them as two to four year commitments.
However, here at learndirect we think a minimum length is not necessarily the only hallmark of a high quality Apprenticeship and could risk holding back exceptional candidates who develop at a faster pace. A flexible approach to Apprenticeships can promote better engagement, commitment and in turn outcomes.
Keeping an element of flexibility within Apprenticeships allows employers to mould them to their specific business needs.
If Apprenticeships are to be as successful as possible, both potential participants and employers need access to high quality information. The review advised the government to take an educational and promotional rather than sales-based approach to providing information on Apprenticeships to employers, to encourage and support businesses taking on an apprentice and to help them understand the benefits they stand to reap.
At learndirect, we suggest the government needs to take action to ensure the new duty on schools to provide impartial and high quality careers advice to every pupil includes all vocational options, including Apprenticeships and Traineeships, as current provision is patchy . Training providers and employers also have a role to play in forging links with schools and colleges to showcase the opportunities available to young people, particularly through the vocational route.
Now the consultation is closed, it is hoped the government will be able to confirm its broad approach to Apprenticeships, and a timetable for implementation sometime in autumn this year.
Employers can expect to see the new qualifications in place from as early as 2014/15 and are encouraged to get involved in the design of Apprenticeships. This way they can shape and influence the qualifications to meet the requirements of the wider sectors they operate in, and their own business needs.
Need more information about Apprenticeships?
In the meantime, employers are not expected to wait until the new qualifications come into force. Companies can still reap the vast benefits from the high quality Apprenticeships that are currently available. And with the next tranche of school leavers considering their options, now is the ideal time for employers to seize the opportunity to bring new and aspiring talent into their organisations through work-based Apprenticeship programmes.
To find about the range of Apprenticeships we provide, and how we can help your company recruit a new apprentice call 0845 603 4055.