Politicians’ “obsession” with apprenticeships risks undermining other further education and skills policies, a leading sector figure has warned.
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said adult learners and young people with other skills needs risked becoming “lost” after the election if any of the three main parties were to implement their apprenticeship plans.
The Conservatives have pledged to create an extra three million apprenticeships over the course of the next parliament, while Labour have promised an apprenticeship for every young person who “gets the grades”. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have promised to double the number of employers offering apprenticeships.
Mr Gravatt told TES: “[The parties] are right that apprenticeships matter and have a real role, but the danger is that further reforms will risk disrupting some of the other things that work quite well already. There is a range of other education and skills needs where we are short on solutions.
“This obsession with apprenticeships risks missing the fact that there’s tens of millions of people over 16 who are outside the apprenticeships system and have other education and training needs. They are lost in the current political debate.”
“More thought and attention” needed to be given to adult further education, he added. The AoC has warned that continued cuts at the current rate would see adult education and training completely disappear by 2020.
Mr Gravatt’s concerns were echoed by Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).
Writing to AELP members last week, Mr Segal said: “Let us hope that the election promises made by all major parties do not override those principles of making this programme work effectively for young people and employers.”
David Grailey, chief executive of vocational awarding body NCFE, said that while it was “fantastic” to see apprenticeships so high on the political agenda, cuts to adult FE were a “major cause for concern”.
“The value of adult education should not be underestimated – it’s integral in an aging population where people are retiring later and having multiple careers within their working life,” he said. “We would like to see its importance acknowledged with commitment from the government to safeguarding funding for vocational qualifications, as opposed to focusing solely on apprenticeships.”