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Baroness Wolf: apprenticeships have 'gone backwards'

Academic and cross-bench peer tells MPs that, despite reforms to apprenticeship provision, 'nothing has really changed'

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Academic and cross-bench peer tells MPs that, despite reforms to apprenticeship provision, 'nothing has really changed'

Britain's apprenticeship system has "gone backwards", according to a leading academic.

Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, a cross-bench peer and the Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management at King's College, London, told the Commons sub-committee on education, skills and the economy today that the apprenticeship system was "exactly the same" as it was four years ago, and the government's reform programme "seems to have run into the sand".

The influential academic wrote the 2011 Wolf Report on vocational education for the government. She also wrote a report in support of an apprenticeship levy last year, shortly before Chancellor George Osborne announced one was to be created.

“We have a system, but we have exactly the same system as we had four years ago," she said. "Essentially nothing has really changed. Following the Richard Review there were some very ambitious reforms announced, which I have to say I think were excellent, and which among others things… identified the idea that an apprenticeship is a new role, a new job, [for] somebody coming into it and learning brand new skills."

She added: “And there have been a large number of new sets of standards announced. People are busy writing new apprenticeships like anything, but the reality is that out there nothing actually seems to have changed. In fact, we seem to have gone backwards again."

Promising reforms but 'no results'

Baroness Wolf said that the government's target of creating 3 million apprentices by 2020 was shifting focus away from making progress in creating higher level apprenticeships.

"We are not making any progress in shifting the focus of apprenticeships to high skill traditional routes," she said. "And actually I don’t understand why, although my hunch is that although with half of its intentions the government is indeed committed to trying to improve apprenticeships... With its other half, of course, it is tied to a 3 million target, and that would have to be my explanation of what is going on."

She added: "I just have to say, I don’t know what’s happening out there. There was a very clear and really quite promising reform programme and it just seems to have run into the sand."

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