The apprenticeship system will require a fresh start to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and the economy at large, as well as providing opportunities for disadvantaged young people to acquire skills and find their way into employment.
Independent think tank of the Center for Social Justice in its Report on trade secrets called for immediate action to reverse the decline in level 2 (intermediate) apprenticeships that are said to be in "free fall".
Relatively few level 2 apprenticeships have been approved, with employers who pay taxes concentrating more on higher level apprenticeships. In addition, bottlenecks in funding bands had resulted in far fewer launches. Good level 2 options increase wages and employability and offer good returns to the government, the authors say.
The Association of Work and Learning Providers welcomed the report as “potentially groundbreaking”.
The pandemic had severely affected apprenticeships. As of April 2020, only 39% of apprenticeships continued as usual, 8% of apprentices were laid off, and only 58% of employers were confident that once economic restrictions were relaxed, all of their apprentices would return.
Employers have likely been very risk averse when it comes to investing in training, the authors found.
They argued that the government must drastically reduce the risk of investing in apprenticeships, at least until employers have more confidence in the economy, which could lead to "long-term cultural shifts to more vocational training – and thus a more seamless alignment between ours Skills gaps and training people ”.
In particular, the government should pay close attention to school leavers and young adults. The existing system favored already more mature (and often more highly skilled) workers, the report said, and according to a survey by CSJ / YouGov, more than one in six employers who paid a levy used levy funds to reassess existing training ( 17%) or skills to be accredited that the existing staff already had in the year before the survey (18%).
The report found that the current apprenticeship system did not really reflect the demand from small businesses with "significant untapped potential" for apprenticeships among SMEs, which represent 99% of employers in the UK.
The taxpayer apprenticeship system was run by the employer, but non-taxpayers worked in an environment where apprenticeship training was effectively limited. The authors found: Non-taxpayers could apply for funding to support training costs, but the government limited the number of apprenticeships it supported each month. "We need a really demand-driven system where the number of apprentices flows towards their natural goals," added the authors.
Apprenticeship training was too geared towards highly qualified employees and not enough towards school leavers. One of the many reasons for this was that some employers used levy funds to re-evaluate existing training.
The decline in level 2 apprenticeships was compounded by a lack of support from schools. Students knew too little about apprenticeships and there was a lack of quality information, advice and guidance on apprenticeships in schools. Some schools did not comply with laws aimed at giving students better access to information about apprenticeships.
We all have courses and training providers ready, but the employer is so hard to find ”- school career advisor
Employers, too, are often unaware of the support they are receiving. According to a survey by YouGov / CSJ, 43% of trainees are not aware of any financial support.
Some of the government's suggested ways of raising the number to healthier levels included promoting apprenticeships to fill vacancies in the public sector – such as nursing and teaching. (On the same day as the report was released, the government announced plans to double apprenticeship funding for nurses.) It was also suggested that the government could leverage large infrastructure projects, including plans to expand high-speed broadband, rebuild schools, develop greener ones Buses and for delivery HS2. Many of the jobs associated with these projects would be "well suited to the apprentice model".
Among the 20 specific recommendations in trade secrets were suggestions for:
- The Apprenticeship and Technical Education Institute is reviewing the way it sets funding bands and should immediately sign new Level 2 standards if needed.
- The government must work with employers to build and support the associated costs of better pre-apprenticeship training.
- Removal of the effective ceiling on government funded training for SMEs by introducing a specific non-tax earmarked budget. This would help to better meet the demand for apprenticeships among SMEs.
- Introduction of a temporary wage subsidy for new 16 to 24 year old trainees. This subsidy should be set at 75% of wages. This would significantly reduce the risk of the investment.
- The government should implement the "Baker Clause" more fully. This clause was included in the 2017 Technical and Other Education Act to ensure that schools provide colleges and training providers with the ability to require students in Years 8-13 to discuss approved technical qualifications or apprenticeships.
Jane Hickie, executive director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said the Center for Social Justice had rightly highlighted the importance of the government to support apprenticeship (Level 2) apprenticeships “when the immediate prospects are for young people are so gloomy ”.
She said, “This is not just about funding, although the government should do something about the pathetic funding rate that is available for adult social worker training. It is also about responding better to the needs of employers in the public and private sectors who, for example, cannot understand why there is no longer any level 2 apprenticeship available in business.
“The pandemic could not have come at a worse time for this year's school leavers, and AELP strongly supports the CSJ's recommendation that the government return to funding apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds entirely from their general budgets, rather than relying on them rely on the submission.
“Until the lockdown, the levy system has not been able to meet the demand for apprenticeships from small and medium-sized enterprises, which traditionally have offered the most opportunities to young people at lower levels, and so the report correctly highlighted the need for ministers to be more committed to restoration show some balance within the financing system. "
She added: "The report is not just about social justice for young people. It shows the value of apprenticeships in improving the UK's sad productivity record by citing research showing three-quarters of employers in the UK Apprentices say the program has increased their company's productivity. "
A school career counselor told Personnel Today, "I wouldn't necessarily agree that students generally don't know about apprenticeship availability." But we definitely had problems with the lack of employers offering apprenticeships. We all have courses and training providers ready, but employers are so hard to find. "
Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Selection Committee, noted in the foreword to the report the value of apprenticeships to the economy as a whole: "They have exceptional returns for everyone involved: Apprentices continue to have excellent employment prospects, companies benefit from every new pound of apprenticeships Investing at level 3 brings a return of £ 28 for the overall economy. You are as close as possible to a win-win situation. "
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