Pressure is growing on the government over apprenticeship funding proposals which could see rates for some 16-18 apprentices reduced by almost half.
Experts have warned that changes currently being consulted on by the Skills Funding Agency would hit students from the most deprived backgrounds and those from ethnic minorities the hardest, with some funding rates set to reduced by as much as 48 per cent.
Theresa May was quizzed about the proposals in Prime Minister’s Questions, while education secretary Justine Greening also faced a question about the issue by the Commons Education Select Committee this morning.
In response to comments by Labour MP Richard Burden, who highlighted proposed “cuts of between 30 and 50 per cent” to funding rates, Ms May said: “I simply don’t recognise the situation he’s set out in terms of apprenticeships.
“We’ve seen two million apprenticeships created over the last six years. We’re committed as a government to seeing more apprenticeships being created.”
'It is important that business contributes'
Labour MP Catherine McKinnell also raised the issue with Ms Greening, asking the minister whether the proposed rate cuts would affect the government’s “social mobility ambitions”.
In response, Ms Greening said the government would “look really carefully at all the responses” to the consultation.
“It is important that businesses contribute to making sure that the young people our economy needs and that business needs are being properly trained,” she added.
“We’re looking very carefully to make sure that we sure that we see opportunities for apprenticeships across the country. This is about more apprenticeships and better apprenticeships, rather than less.”
'Make sure that quality of apprenticeships is high'
Apprenticeship were also being discussed by the sub-committee on education, skills and the economy.
Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for people and skills, told MPs that it was important to ensure that all apprenticeships were of a high quality. "A lot of the debate circles on three million [apprenticeships by 2020 target]," he said. "The question should actually be, 'Three million what?' Three million is a great number, it’s gross, in apprenticeships.
"But if there are three million routes to good careers, and businesses are absolutely up for that... the main complaint in our membership is not being able to get enough people who are ready to take those apprenticeships on, not not being willing to deliver it."
Concerns were also raised by Marcus Mason, head of business, education and skills at the British Chambers of Commerce. He said: "In order to make sure that quality of apprenticeships is high and is maintained, you need to be able to have effective feedback from other stakeholders and from learners, making sure that certain providers who perhaps are consistently delivering sub par training aren’t able to access the programme.
"So I think taking into account those other stakeholders is crucial. The Institute of Apprenticeships could be a way of collecting some of that feedback and acting upon it."
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