In 2015 the Department for Education set out its vision for English Apprenticeships following a review into the system, to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships through a transformational programme of change. Whilst apprenticeships were successful, the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships found a number of challenges that we needed to address if we wanted to improve their quality and quantity.
It found that the quality of apprenticeship training needed to be improved and relevant to meet the needs of the employer. Employer investment and sustainable funding for apprenticeships must be secured and the accessibility of these apprenticeships also needs to be improved, supporting the vulnerable. Ultimately we needed more apprenticeships overall to meet the skills gap.
The Apprenticeship Reform Programme had four main objectives; to meet the skills needs of the employers, to create progression for apprentices, to widen participation and social mobility in apprenticeships and to create more quality apprenticeships.
According to the latest 2021 report on the programme as it comes to an end, three million apprenticeships had been entered into in England between 2015 and 2020. This latest report highlights how successful the Programme has been and outlines plans for 2021 and beyond.
On quality, their achievement rate for apprenticeship standards has gone up by 12%. But there is a lot more to do. To meet this objective, there is new employer and provider guidance and more self-assessment tools. There’s also a new national online Apprenticeship Workforce Development programme for training providers. The government is also implementing a new accountability approach to ensure high-quality assurance for all those registered to deliver training.
Last March the programme faced its biggest challenge yet with the Covid-19 pandemic. Apprenticeship numbers dropped due to the impact of national lockdowns, with staff on furlough, falls in vacancies and some employment failure. In response to this, the government introduced flexibilities and adaptations to enable apprenticeships to continue and all learners to start and complete their apprenticeship. Support was also provided to businesses, offering £1,500 in grants for every apprentice they hire, rising to £2000 if the new apprentice was under the age of 25. This was further increased to £3000.
We’ve always looked to employ apprentices within the business but due to our significant growth, we’re now looking to grow and employ even more. There’s a national skills shortage with more people retiring than entering the industry. So apprentices can help meet this need and improve local skills, helping more young people into the industry. We also help by working with local colleges to provide support, placements and apprenticeships to their students.
The Apprenticeship Reform Programme has been completed now but the focus now is on raising quality and extending accessibility of apprenticeships to employers in all sectors. The future of the programme remains responsive to the needs of the employers and apprentices through the new objectives. The government will now concentrate on embedding the reforms it has made and providing the market with sufficient stability to adjust to the new models of apprenticeships funding, delivery, and quality assurance.
The future programme will continue with a focus on four key benefits; to support employers of all sizes to benefit from high-quality apprenticeships that are relevant and responsive, drive up the quality of apprenticeships, support progression into sustainable employment and ensure apprenticeships are accessible to individuals at all stages of their career. This will hopefully help the country recover more quickly from the pandemic and help provide a solution to the skills shortage.