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12-month rule extended to over-19s

The 12-month minimum duration for apprenticeships will be extended to over-19s, skills minister John Hayes announced as he tried to defuse criticisms of the rigour and quality of the programme. The new standards will come into force in August, with one notable exception: where adults have proven prior learning that could contribute to the apprenticeship, they will be able to complete it in six months, with reduced funding. "We are taking strong and decisive action to tackle short duration so all apprentices receive high-quality training and workplace learning, setting them on the road to a long, rewarding career," Mr Hayes said. The National Apprenticeship Service is also tightening contracts for apprenticeship providers, requiring them to act within the spirit of the programme as well as within regulations. An inquiry panel has also been set up, reporting directly to the minister, to address poor-quality provision as soon as it is reported.

Ex-apprentice to head Sheffield UTC

A former apprentice and current academy vice-principal has been appointed to lead Sheffield University Technical College (UTC), which opens next year. Nick Crew will leave his role as vice-principal of Outwood Academy Valley in Worksop to begin the new role in September. Mr Crew left school at 16 to train as an electrical engineering apprentice with British Coal, before retraining as a teacher. The Sheffield UTC is sponsored by the Sheffield College with Sheffield Hallam University and aerospace engineering company Firth Rixson. "Nick has all the qualities we were looking for and was strongly favoured by the employers," said Andrew Cropley, executive director of the Sheffield College. "He has personal experience of work-based learning, having gained a higher level qualification in that setting, and the knowledge of helping to run an outstanding school."

UCU vote supports greater say for ordinary members

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, has won overwhelming support for her reforms, which are aimed at giving ordinary members a more direct say in the union's activities. Proposals to shrink the national executive committee were backed by 89 per cent of voters, while 85 per cent supported plans to ensure that members are balloted on whether to accept or reject a final offer during negotiations with employers. Electing national negotiators by "one member, one vote" instead of by the annual congress was supported by 82 per cent. Turnout was 19 per cent - higher than the general secretary election. The proposals will now be taken to annual congress for approval. "Reforming the union was the linchpin of my recent election campaign and these proposals will now go to our annual congress," Ms Hunt said. "Members must be central to the union's work and it is clear that they want a greater say in what the union does and wish to see resources pumped into front-line services."

Apprenticeships dominated by older age groups

Older adults continue to dominate the growth of apprenticeships, according to the latest figures. Under-19 apprenticeships only increased by 1 per cent in the first half of this academic year to 79,100. Among over-25s the increase was 48 per cent, to 100,300, while in the 19-24 age group the number of starts rose by 13 per cent to 77,100. "These increases are extremely encouraging and it is testament to the government's unwavering commitment to apprenticeships," skills minister John Hayes said. However, the Skills Funding Agency said that the government's priority is to address the needs of younger learners, those with lower skills and the unemployed. The agency said it will monitor the volume of over-25 apprenticeships and will not contract any provider to increase the number of places for the older age group.

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