Pledge to crack down on apprentice 'exploitation'

19th October 2016 at 18:20
Peter Lauener, interim boss of the Institute for Apprenticeships, says that a 'rich database' and safeguards, such as Ofsted, will help to protect apprentices from unscrupulous employers

Data will play an "important part" in preventing unscrupulous employers from under-paying apprentices and gaining funding for inappropriate training, Peter Lauener has said.

Addressing the Commons sub-committee on education, skills and the economy this afternoon, Mr Lauener, interim chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency and the Education Funding Agency, said that a “rich database” of employers would be used to root out examples of bad practice.

“The legal minimum [wage] for apprenticeships is £3.40 an hour," Mr Lauener said. "The median rate is £6.31 an hour for levels 2 and 3 and £9.68 an hour for levels 4 and 5. But, from time to time, we do come across examples of [what] is clearly not a good practice.

“I don’t regard any kind of exploitation as acceptable at the margins…One of the things we’re looking at…is whether there is a way of looking at some of the data we’ve got to identify instances that we might want to investigate further."

Asked whether he thought employers who were providing training could be subject to immediate scrutiny, Mr Lauener said in-built “protections” such as Ofsted would be used against employers hoping to exploit loopholes in the system.

“Of course, Ofsted is one of the safeguards against that, because all training providers have to be inspected on a cycle," he said. "It doesn't mean that every single employer would be picked up as part of that, but we look at every single Ofsted report...that is produced, we take action against providers if any problems are identified. I do think using data more and more as part of the assurance system is a really important part of what we do."

‘The German system wouldn't work here’

Mr Lauener also said he doubted that a German skills system, widely regarded as one of the strongest in the world, could be "transplanted" into the British skills system.

“The institute and the arrangements that have been put in place [are] to try and establish a culture, but we’re not trying to replicate the Germanic system – it wouldn't work. I’ll give you one example where I don’t think it would work in quite the same way: the German system for validating the standard of apprenticeship is largely experienced trainers from the occupation will do it. So apprentices in Siemens might be validated at end-point assessment by Bosch. I don’t think that kind of system would just work in this country.”

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