Milton: Let's not 'turn off the tap' on apprenticeships

But measures such as age caps for apprentices could help make funding more sustainable, says skills minister Anne Milton

apprenticeships, Apprenticeship funding, level 2 and 3 apprenticehships

Placing an age limit on apprenticeships is one way for the government to target the apprenticeship budget, skills minister Anne Milton has said. 

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Education and Learning Providers (AELP) today, she said it would also be possible to introduce a cap on pre-apprenticeship salaries. 

Milton said there were a number of measures the government could introduce to ensure the affordability of the apprenticeship programme – although she would prefer to increase the overall budget.  

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Concerns about the apprenticeship budget were raised after the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education estimated there could be an overspend of £500 million, rising to £1.5 billion in 2021-22. 

In March, DfE permanent secretary Jonathan Slater told a parliamentary committee there simply wasn't going to be “enough to go around for everything and something has got to give”. 

But Milton told the AELP conference she did not favour any of the options that would limit access to apprenticeships, and would rather increase the overall funding available. “My job is to get as much money as we can for the system, because why would you turn off the tap? If people are getting more skills, productivity will increase,” she said. 

Putting an age limit on apprenticeships was something that made her "very uncomfortable”, she stressed. “There’s an awful lot of people in their forties and fifties who are returning to the workplace training up and changing careers, or getting into work for the first time at 40 or 50. I would find that extremely difficult.

"As I say, freeing pre-apprenticeship pay is probably one of the most palatable things, but ask [Education and Skills Funding Agency director] Keith Smith, I don’t like any of them” she said.

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