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Funding change would slash apprentice numbers, claims vocational learning charity


A charity that champions vocational learning has attacked the government’s plans to change the way adult apprenticeships are paid for in England.

Ministers want to reduce subsidies for adult apprenticeship training and assessment, leaving employers to make up the difference.

But the Edge Foundation said the government was using a “dangerously blunt instrument” to make reform.

Its director of policy David Harbourne said: “The apprenticeship system has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. There is a case for reform, particularly to ensure that public subsidies are spent well and wisely.

“However, the government has chosen a dangerously blunt instrument. Their proposals will lead to a large reduction in apprenticeship numbers. They will also have a big impact on specialist training services.”

Even the government’s own research suggests apprenticeship numbers could take a hit if employers are forced to pay.

An evaluation carried out by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last year revealed that 46 per cent of employers with 250 or more employees and 73 per cent of employers with less than 10 staff said they would not have trained people through apprenticeships if they had had to pay additional costs equivalent to half fees.

Employers estimated adult apprentice numbers would drop by 73 per cent if that happened.

But in the government’s consultation document, skills minister Matthew Hancock says employers are the best judge of which training is worth investing in.

“Therefore we propose that government will provide funding in proportion to the investment employers are willing to make themselves,” he says.

“This means that training providers will compete for business – both on quality and on price.”

Edge has set out its own ideas for reform, including the suggestion that subsidies could be used to support the most valuable apprenticeships, as measured by wage returns, social benefits and economic impact.

The consultation runs until October 1.


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