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Private providers of vocational learning need higher status, says retiring chief

Independent providers of vocational learning must be given the same status as schools and colleges to ensure that young people have a choice of high quality training, the retiring head of a leading trade association has warned.

Graham Hoyle, who is standing down as chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) after 11 years in the post, said the independent sector was on a much stronger footing than a decade ago.

But he warned that the standing of independent providers was in danger of slipping. “The ‘levelling up’ of the playing field on which independent providers operate has progressed significantly, but there is still a bit more to do and always a danger of the board being tilted back the wrong way again. This must not be allowed to happen,” he said.

Mr Hoyle said the last 11 years had been “exciting, productive and memorable”, with much progress made in several key areas.

He said the most “dramatic and welcome” change had been the massive growth in apprenticeships, and the fact they can now be found in all sectors, covering all ages and almost all levels.

“[These are] all developments that increasingly position apprenticeships as the mechanism for workforce development across the whole economy,” he said.

However, he said, it must not be forgotten that although government policy had set much of the expansion in motion, employers had designed and funded much of the expanded apprenticeship provision.

“More important even than the growth in both scale and breadth of apprenticeships is the still painfully slow recognition that structured work based learning has always been, and will always remain, at the heart of skill development, and indeed the economic wellbeing of the country,” Mr Hoyle added.

The AELP is the leading trade association for vocational learning and employment providers in the UK.  The majority of its 600 plus members are independent, private, not-for-profit and voluntary sector training and employment services organisations.  

Mr Hoyle, who was awarded an OBE for services to training in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2008, is being succeeded in the post of chief executive by Stewart Segal, who has worked in the work-based learning sector for more than 20 years.

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