· News

Government right to tread carefully on apprenticeship funding, say training providers

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), which represents training providers who train over 70% of England’s apprentices, has warned the Government that any adoption of Doug Richard’s tax-credits proposal to fund employers’ apprenticeships provision is fraught with danger.

Last year entrepreneur Doug Richard launched a review into apprenticeships in the UK, and yesterday the Government released its reponse.

Having previously expressed deep concerns about the likely impact on small business take-up of the programme, the AELP has stated it's pleased that the new BIS consultation document on the future of apprenticeships has held back from a firm ministerial commitment to the idea.

AELP has responded positively to the Government's apparent acceptance of several other of Richard's recommendations for improving the apprenticeships programme, although it would argue that some of the recommendations are already in place.

Training providers find it encouraging, for example, that the new plans for functional skills in English and maths within an apprenticeship are realistic.

AELP is comfortable with the proposed final holistic test at the end of an apprenticeship, providing that the test is not too inflexible. It says that it is difficult to imagine a single test for some sectors that will successfully cover all the competencies acquired during an apprenticeship programme and therefore some flexibility will need to be built into the test's design.

Nevertheless, the Association has said it's happy to work closely with the Government and employers to try to formulate tests that work for as many sectors as possible.

Chief executive of AELP, Graham Hoyle said: "We said in our own response to the Richard Review that many of Doug Richard's recommendations made good sense and we are equally pleased that the Government has observed in its consultation that there is already good practice in existence.

"The Government is right to say that apprenticeships should still be available at level 2, which reflects what employer customers have been telling our members.

"Also encouraging is the Government's confirmation that it intends to introduce traineeships in the autumn to help less-qualified young people gain a place on an apprenticeship.

Hoyle added: "Much more can be done and I hope that ministers will look again at our ideas for apprenticeships to be championed in secondary schools. They will help the Government achieve the prime minister's stated goal as an apprenticeship being seen as 'the new normal'."