9 ways to future-proof the apprenticeship system

The day after Rishi Sunak pledges £2.5bn to improve apprenticeships for businesses, one employer sets out nine steps to reform

Kate Parker

Apprenticeships: Nine ways to future-proof the system

Apprenticeships must be available for flexible workers, and the standards must reflect changes in workforce development needs, employers have said today.

In report published today, the Co-op, which currently hires 1,200 apprenticeships, has outlined nine areas of reform in order to future-proof the apprenticeship system. 

The recommendations include flexibility around the levy and the 20 per cent off-the-job training rule. The report comes the day after chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged £2.5bn of funding for apprenticeships and further improvements for employers.


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In his Spending Review speech in Parliament, Mr Sunak said the government would “improve the way the apprenticeship system works for businesses”. The documents published alongside the speech set out that from August of next year, employers that pay the apprenticeship levy will be able to transfer unspent levy funds “in bulk” to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a new “pledge function”.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-op, said: “Currently, we offer 1,200 apprenticeships across the Co-op. These colleagues are based across our group, from our support centre in Manchester right through to the frontline in UK high streets, in our food stores and funeral homes. I’ve seen how their energy and new ways of thinking helps us to achieve a better way of doing business. 

“Giving people the opportunity to make their mark through an apprenticeship can drive social mobility and help tackle the persistent inequalities in our society. That’s why I champion apprenticeships and also why we want to work with the government, following this report to future-proof the apprenticeship policy. We want to help address how the national programme can better accommodate different needs, business to business, apprentice to apprentice.”

The areas for development in full 

  1. The need for employers to monitor apprenticeship recruitment to develop a more diverse workforce.
  2. Getting the commitment of business managers to promote and support apprenticeships when this impacts on the availability of their staff.
  3. The ability of apprenticeships to be used for flexible workers.
  4. The agility of the standards development, amendment and updating process to reflect expected changes in workforce development needs.
  5. The need for the standards setting process to accommodate smaller employers.
  6. The 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement and how it can be better supported in certain job roles where it impacts on other staffing costs.
  7. The cost of additional learner support, including providing training that does not currently count towards 20 per cent off-the-job training.
  8. The need to enhance progression into, within and beyond apprenticeships.
  9. The need for greater flexibility in what levy funding can support to reflect the different costs of apprenticeships for employers, and to contribute to wider government agendas.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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