Our apprenticeship system plays a vital part in our technical education landscape but they have the potential to become even more ambitious and relevant to the skills needed for the 21st century. Rather than introducing new measures, we should scale up the things that already work well and focus on higher quality, broader transferable skills and better preparation for the onset of the fourth industrial revolution and green economy, working particularly with smaller businesses.
It is clear that apprenticeships have a key role to play in delivering high quality technical education in England. This is particularly the case in the economic recovery following Covid-19, which has had a major impact on apprentices, with many being furloughed or losing their jobs. Rather than introducing wholesale reforms, we need to tweak the existing programme and scale up the things that work best. To do so, we should:
- Refocus the current apprenticeship programme and levy away from adults already in employment towards young people aged 16-24 starting their careers, with schools better promoting apprenticeships as an equal route to success. The term ‘apprenticeship’ cannot be all things to all people – the programme (and the levy) should be focused on young people and on high quality routes into apprenticeships (e.g. traineeships, paid internships). Plentiful flexible adult learning and retraining is essential as our economy adapts to the fourth industrial revolution – this should be properly funded and supported by government outside the apprenticeship programme.
- Degree apprenticeships should be significantly expanded. However, this should not come at the expense of squeezing out higher level apprenticeships.
- Rebalance the programme towards small businesses and expand the Apprenticeships Training Agency model so that cities and regions can tailor the programme to meet local needs
- Ensure that quality is the prime driver. This requires moving away from stringent targets towards high quality measurements of success (e.g number of apprentices from diverse backgrounds; percentage of apprentices and employers satisfied with programme; apprenticeship completion rates; progression into good jobs)
- Including mentoring as a proven intervention to increase success rates. While this is expensive, SME’s can be encouraged to partner with institutions to offer this service.
- Broaden apprenticeship training to include transferable, real life and sector relevant skills that employers are looking for
- Bring back young apprenticeships at age 14-16 and adopt the Scottish foundation apprenticeships model in England for those aged 16-18.
- Divide apprenticeships into units of training with a proportionate end point test so that apprentices can bank training and successes as they go.
Find out more in Our Plan for Apprenticeships.