The Group works to ensure that apprenticeships serve as a pathway to a career and how the apprenticeship model can meet the changing skill demands from businesses. The Group has heard from all the top apprenticeship experts, including recent Ministers or Skills, top civil servants and business groups but most importantly from apprentices themselves.
In July 2019, the Group launched its Annual Report with the following key recommendations:
- There should be a greater focus on the quality of apprenticeships provided and the standards underpinning this. The Institute for Apprenticeships should ensure that the standards being developed are efficient, flexible and robust, matching the needs of different businesses and sectors. This includes End Point Assessments, which should be fit-for-purpose, relevant and not simply represent a tick-box exercise.
- The Department for Education must ensure that schools are strongly incentivised and teachers/Careers Leaders are properly supported to promote apprenticeships and provide guidance through the application process, to encourage genuine parity of esteem with university pathways.
- Businesses need to have a joined-up approach locally with schools and parents to create a greater understanding of the range of apprenticeship opportunities in their local area. Stronger relationships between educators, students and businesses should be encouraged and regular apprenticeship fairs should be promoted with their value and impact being measured and benchmarked.
- Part-time apprenticeships should be made more widely available and encouraged in the workplace to ensure greater accessibility. Government, policymakers, providers and industry need to work together to ensure the relevant structures are in place to successfully implement part-time apprenticeships on a large-scale.
- The apprenticeship minimum wage should be increased to achieve parity with the minimum wage, not only to encourage more people into on-the-job training but to increase the perceived value of apprenticeships.
- There needs to be clarity around the role of a Local Enterprise Partnership in conjunction with Combined Regional Authorities to ensure a clear strategy is in place which complements the delivery of apprenticeships locally and avoids duplication.
- Apprenticeships need to move from preparing a person for a particular role, to being part of the wider workforce in order to adjust to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
- Government should consider innovative solutions to enable unspent Apprenticeship Levy funds to be used, including, for example, by approving pilots for different sectors, such as aerospace, health and finance, to pool their unspent levy pot. This could by managed by a representative body to support small businesses in the sector, by allowing employers greater flexibility in transferring their funds.
- The particular challenges faced by NHS organisations in delivering apprenticeships must be addressed by both the Department for Education and the Department of Health & Social Care, if NHS employers are to make effective use of their substantial Apprenticeship Levy funds.
- Apprentice travel cards and discounts should be made widely available to reflect and match the discounts and subsidies which are on offer to university students.
Co-Chair: Catherine McKinnell MP Labour, Newcastle Upon Tyne North
Catherine McKinnell was elected the MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne North in 2010, following a career in employment law. She is a passionate advocate for apprenticeships. Shortly after being elected, she introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill, the Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill, which called for the introduction of the requirement on public sector contracts having a firm commitment to skills training and apprenticeships. This has since become Government policy. She is currently a member of the Treasury Select Committee, which scrutinises the policy of the Department for Education, including on skills and apprenticeships.
Co-Chair Gillian Keegan MP Conservative, Chichester www.gilliankeegan.com @gilliankeegan Gillian was elected as the MP for Chichester in 2017. Having spent 25 years working and living abroad, working in the manufacturing, banking and IT industries, Gillian switched her focus to politics and was first elected as a local councillor in October 2014. In May 2015 she stood as a parliamentary candidate in St Helens South and Whiston, Merseyside, where she gained second place for the Conservatives for the first time. Gillian is particularly interested in improving career opportunities for school leavers and attracting more business investment. She is a great advocate for high quality apprenticeships, having started her career as an apprentice at Delco Electronics aged 16 – an opportunity which gave her the right start in life to go on and build a successful career.