Buckinghamshire Business First’s response to the Richards Review of Apprenticeships
The Richard Review of Apprenticeships was published in late November following a significant consultation period which closed in early September. Buckinghamshire Business First submitted a response to the consultation, and we now give our response to the Review.
Doug Richard makes ten recommendations in his review and stresses that these should be considered collectively and adopted as a whole.
1. Apprenticeships should be redefined
We believe that apprenticeships should be defined in such a manner that the term becomes synonymous with high quality, rigorous training that is associated with those that are new to work or a role and require sustained and substantial training. We welcome the suggestion that a new, separate work-based programme should be developed to support entry into employment as a preparing ground for some before they embark on an apprenticeship. We would like to see this support extended to include mentoring for new apprentices commencing work with micro and small businesses during the early stage of an apprenticeship.
2. The focus of apprenticeships should be on the outcome
We agree that there should be recognised industry standards at the heart of every apprenticeship and that they set out what apprentices should know and be able to do at the end of their apprenticeship, at a level which is meaningful and relevant to employers.
3. The Government should set up a contest for the best qualification
While we agree that the needs of employers should be at the heart of the design and development of apprenticeship programmes, we would like to see collaboration rather than competition within sectors to develop qualifications, and would like to see assurances that the needs of SMEs are incorporated.
4. The testing and validation process should be independent and genuinely respected by industry
We believe that apprenticeships should be synonymous with quality, rigorous training and robust qualifications, and that apprenticeship “graduates” should be highly regarded and sought after by employers. We agree that assessments should test apprentice competence and knowledge against the standards specified in the qualification and welcome the suggestion that quality and standards of apprenticeships are assured through external accreditation and moderation in a similar way to other qualifications and competences.
5. All apprentices should have achieved Level 2 in English and Maths before they can complete their apprenticeship
We agree that the English and Maths taught within apprenticeships should be functional and within the context of the role. However, we believe that the level to be achieved within the apprenticeship should allow the apprentice to operate effectively within their role and prepare them for progression rather than specify a prescriptive level of achievement.
6. The Government should encourage diversity and innovation in delivering apprenticeships
We believe that apprenticeships should be delivered in a way that best suits the needs of both the employer and apprentice, as long as assurances are in place to ensure the quality of the experience and standard of the qualification are maintained.
7. The Government has a role in promoting good quality delivery
We agree that there should be a minimum duration for an apprenticeship and welcome the suggestion that some off-site learning should be mandatory. We believe that an approval process should exist to confirm that training organisations are providing good quality training, relevant to the sector.
8. Government funding must create the right incentives for apprenticeship training
We believe that Government should contribute to the cost of apprenticeships and that this should be routed through employers wherever practicable. We agree that employers should be incentivised to recruit apprentices and would like to see financial incentives specifically directed at SMEs in a simple and accessible way. We know that some employers find the apprenticeship landscape challenging and would like to see some funding directed to local independent, impartial employer facing organisations, e.g. LEPs, to provide a brokerage service to support any new employer freedoms.
9. Learners and employers need access to good quality information
We believe that more work needs to be done to better promote apprenticeships as an alternative and equally rigorous qualification and career pathway to traditional “academic” qualifications. We would like to see more investment in promotion to young people, parents, schools and employers.
10. Government must actively boost awareness of the new apprenticeship model
We agree that boosting learner and employer demand is the responsibility of Government and its agencies but would also like to see employer and sector specific umbrella organisations taking an active role in this work. The benefits, relevance and return on investment of apprenticeships must be clearly articulated and all levers at the disposal of Government used to ensure that the messages are actively promoted to all.
We look forward to the Government’s response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships and how they propose to take forward the recommendations.