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Training providers in 'serious doubt' over apprenticeship proposals

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The UK's largest trade association for national training providers has expressed serious doubt over Government plans to reform apprenticeship funding.

Business secretary Vince Cable yesterday outlined new funding models, which he said would make it easier for employers to take on an apprentice.

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

However the Association of Employment and Training Providers (AELP) has expressed serious doubt about the changes.

AELP, which trains 75% of England's 749,000 apprentices, said the proposals will require new systems of funding, inspection, assessment and compliance, and are in no way a simplification of the existing system.

It said SMEs would find it hard to navigate their way around the new systems when they may only have one or two apprentices.

AELP chief executive Stewart Segal said the Government should be considering a total review of apprenticeships not just deal with the funding options.

"We have considerable doubts over whether the PAYE proposal would actually bring more employers into the apprenticeship programme. In fact, it might put smaller businesses off," Segal said.

"The co-funding option might have merit if it properly recognises the contributions which employers make towards an apprentice's framework achievement.

"If we want to build on the major growth in apprenticeships over the last ten years, then it is vital that we get this reform right."

Cable launched a consultation on the reforms, which will run until October.

"Employers are the best people to judge what training is worth investing in," he said.

"It gives them the power to train their staff to make sure their skills are relevant to the company, while choosing from the wide range of courses available."

As well as consulting on long-term measures, the Government is extending by a year, grants of £1,500 for companies with 1,000 people.

The consultation, follows the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, published last November, which looked at how apprenticeships in England can meet the needs of the changing economy.