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Apprenticeships put at risk by reform proposals, say training providers

Government proposals on the funding reforms for apprenticeships will not deliver the improvements the scheme needs, according to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).

The AELP claims the proposals put at risk the involvement of SMEs in apprenticeships and could 'destabilise' the programmes for 16-19-year-olds, where even greater support is needed.

AELP's concerns follow a consultation published by business secretary Vince Cable in July, in which he outlined various funding models designed to make it easier for employers to take on an apprentice.

These include: a direct model, where Government funding would be paid direct to employees; a pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system, where funding would be reclaimed through tax contributions; and retaining the existing model, where providers are paid through the Government.

The consultation on the reform proposals will end this month; it follows the Richard Review of apprenticeships published last November, which looked at how apprenticeships in England could meet the needs of the changing economy.

AELP, which claims its members train 75% of England's 749,000 apprentices, said that instead of introducing new reforms the Government should be improving the existing apprenticeship system, and try to 'engage' with more employers.

AELP chief executive, Stewart Segal, said: 'We support the objectives for reforming apprenticeships, but evidence from the front line shows that the proposed solutions for directly funding employees are not supported by many employers, particularly SMEs.

'As ministers have said, apprenticeships are a success story,' Segal continued. 'Employers and providers have real concerns about the consultation proposals. We want to see improvements that engage employers in the programme and reforms that build on the success of apprenticeships.'

AELP urged the Government to:

  • Simplify the funding rates for apprenticeships and make them more transparent.
  • Increase employers' choice of providers.
  • Give employers more control over framework content and delivery.
  • Make the contracting process more responsive to employers' needs.

AELP said full funding for 16-19-year-olds should be retained. It claimed the proposed mandatory cash contributions from employers would decrease the number of apprenticeship places made available to young people.

Segal added: 'With the recent introduction of raising the participation age (RPA) to 18 by 2015, for education and training, we should be looking to double the numbers of 16-19-year-olds going into apprenticeships.'