One of Britain’s best-known retailers has criticised the provision of apprenticeship standards, saying that there are none they can offer in key areas of their business.
Speaking at a conference on apprenticeships held in London to mark the first anniversary of the apprenticeship levy, Andrea Haug, head of human resourcing and business partnering at John Lewis, said: “Whilst there are 250 standards available, there are still many gaps in the standards that we would want to be able to offer”.
She added: “As a retailer, buying and merchandising are really core capabilities for us and at the moment there are no standards approved for delivery in those areas”.
At the event last Friday, organised by the Education Policy Institute, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and German thinktank Bertelsmann-Stiftung, Ms Haug said there are “not enough” apprenticeship standards.
She explained that John Lewis, which employs around 450 apprentices, does not offer the scheme as a way of recruiting people as they see their value in developing existing staff.
Apprenticeships targeted at existing staff
Ms Haug remarked: “The apprenticeships that we choose to offer will be apprenticeships probably at level 3 and above in the main that will be focussed on supporting our existing employees and partners to make career transitions into roles that are better jobs”.
Despite the advantages of apprenticeships over degrees, with individuals becoming fully qualified without the debt incurred by graduates, there remains “a stigma and a lack of information and a lack of knowledge” around apprenticeships, she said.
Also speaking at the event, Simon Ashworth, chief policy officer at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “One of the real challenges about spending the levy is that employers don’t necessarily have the product that they want to spend their money”.
He described the current situation as employers “signing up to a Christmas club, putting your money in and when you actually want to buy a turkey at the end, you’re left with a chicken”.
Need for speed
The concerns echo frustrations expressed by the apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton in recent months, who has told the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) it needs to “really speed up” the approval of new apprenticeship standards.
Earlier this year the IfA pledged to get "faster and better" with a series of reforms to streamline the process.
Ms Milton said: “It has taken some business longer to get going on their apprenticeship programmes using the levy whilst many that I have met are forging ahead growing the numbers of apprentices with their businesses getting a skilled and loyal workforce.”