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Apprenticeship growth may stall, providers warn

Training providers have called for a review of apprenticeship reforms, claiming that they will fail to support the government's ambition of creating 3 million apprentices. At the Association of Employment and Learning Providers' annual conference in London earlier this week, sector leaders called for simplification of the current contracting system, which they claimed was the biggest barrier to the growth of the apprenticeship programme. Money already invested in the system could be better spent, as providers that were able to prove employer demand were willing to offer more apprenticeship opportunities, the body said. The Skills Funding Agency has put a freeze on any requests by providers to increase apprenticeship places until after the Budget. However, a recent survey of employers by the SFA finds that three-quarters rate training providers highly for their flexibility. AELP chief executive Stewart Segal said the findings offered "significant evidence" that training companies working with employers could drive the apprenticeship programme forward. "Reforms of the skills system should take this evidence into account," he said. "If we can increase the investment in apprenticeships, make longer-term commitments to employers and providers in terms of budgets, and improve the funding and contracting system by building on what works, then we can grow the programme and maintain the quality of delivery."

Staff strike over job cuts in London and Sheffield

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have taken strike action at two colleges in the past week over job losses. Staff at Lewisham Southwark College staged a series of walkouts over plans to cut 112 posts, and workers at the Sheffield College held several days of action over 25 proposed redundancies. Both colleges blamed the need to make savings on the government funding squeeze. The UCU said strike action was a "last resort" and called on the colleges to meet with union representatives to discuss their position.

Disabled young people demand equal access

More than 100 young people with disabilities demonstrated outside the Houses of Parliament last week, in a bid to be given the same rights to FE as their peers. Young people with disabilities cannot always attend their preferred college, with local authorities having a say in their education and maintaining the right to withhold funding if they deem the student's choice inappropriate. Kathryn Rudd, chair of the Association of National Specialist Colleges, said the system was "failing" young people and their families, who also faced a "constant fight" to access the right information.

Figures reveal pound;70bn return on investment in FE

Apprenticeships deliver the highest value of all publicly funded FE qualifications, according to government research. A paper published this week by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reports that the total net present value of all publicly funded FE qualifications started in 2013-14 is estimated to be pound;70 billion over the years in which successful learners remain in the workforce (bit.lyBISresearch). The average return for each qualification is pound;34,000. Apprenticeships deliver the highest value, with every pound invested in a level 2 apprenticeship returning pound;26, rising to pound;28 for level 3.

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