Quality should be focus of apprenticeship policy, not chasing millions of starters, says MP committee chair

8th September 2016 at 10:30
Neil Carmichael says changing the public's perception of the scheme is also crucial to its success

Apprenticeship policy should focus on quality, rather than quantity, and areas which offer long-terms career paths to avoid unintended consequences, a senior MP has said.

Neil Carmichael, pictured, chair of the Commons education select committee, told a group of sector experts at a Policy Exchange and Interserve roundtable event earlier today: “We have to discover what we want. We can’t just just say we want millions of apprenticeships if we don’t really know where those millions are going to go. The other thing about the millions is that we need to have a quality assurance system in place.”

Mr Carmichael added there was a need to make the post-16 education system more transparent to help build confidence in those going through the programme. While area reviews would help with that, more had to be done, he stressed. There was still a lack of knowledge about the opportunities that apprenticeships could provide, Mr Carmichael explained, and early careers advice to help change the public’s perception was also key.

Both Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, and Stewart Segal, director of strategy at training provider 3AAA, also raised concerns over whether the drive to grow apprenticeship numbers could lead to a “rebadging” of existing provision.

Giving parents confidence in the system

Mr Dawe added that the perception of the apprenticeship scheme could be changed as larger companies grew their offer and promoted it more widely. “If they are saying, ‘We are offering apprenticeships, you get a degree at the end of it,' parents will start to see that. That will the also seep through into level 2 and 3."

Mr Carmichael’s views echo the findings of a report by the National Audit Office, published yesterday. It concluded that the government had to ensure that all apprentiships meet basic quality requirements, and that the quality of training is consistently high. The Department for Education should "chart and follow a course from having a lot of apprenticeships to having the right apprenticeships" in order to help improve the UK’s productivity, it said.

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