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Apprenticeship reforms will change 'culture of the whole country', says minister

Reforms made to apprenticeships in England will make them an integral part of the country’s future, skills minister Matt Hancock has said today.

Outlining the latest apprenticeship funding reforms at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) annual conference in London, the minister said the government was "working to change the culture of the whole country" when it came to work-based learning.

But AELP chief executive Stewart Segal said he wanted to make sure that government reforms were built on the current system and did not undermine what he said was a “very successful programme”.

He said members of the AELP, who deliver some 75 per cent of all apprenticeships in England, still had concerns about various elements of the apprenticeship standards.

Mr Hancock was setting out a “simple” new system for funding apprenticeships, which is currently being trialled with the so-called “trailblazer” employers.

Ministers want to put funding in the hands of employers so that they can choose the most effective training for their apprentices. For every £1 a business invests in training, the government will invest £2.

It will also provide extra funding for successful completion, to support small businesses and for apprentices aged 16-18, and will fully fund training in English and maths. 

The minister said the “simple and fair” system will see “pages and pages” of guidance and funding rules reduced to a simple grid on a side of A4.

He described the apprenticeship reforms as like the switchover to digital television.

“The existing system is popular, successful and loved by millions, but the technology is moving on,” he explained. “We are getting behind apprenticeships like no government before us; making changes so they are an unimpeachable part of our country for the future."

Opening the conference, AELP chairman Martin Dunford reminded delegates how far the system had come in a short space of time.

Around a decade ago, he said he suggested then-education secretary Charles Clarke should take on an apprentice in his office, but civil servants “looked at me as if I was from Mars”.

“Now ministers are falling over themselves to take on apprentices,” he added.

The first to do so was employment minister Esther McVey, who proudly stated the fact when she addressed the conference this morning.

However, the MP for Wirral West came in for criticism from delegates when she was unable to answer questions about the reforms to the current system that her colleague had outlined just an hour before.


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