Business secretary Sajid Javid has defended the government's plans for apprenticeships, insisting that they will benefit companies as well as learners, and even increase overall funding for the further education sector.
Creating 3 million apprenticeships during the current Parliament was one of the government's flagship general election pledges, and it has also announced the introduction of a levy on businesses to fund this expansion.
Addressing the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee today, Mr Javid (pictured) said the overall investment in apprenticeships through the levy would lead to an increase in funds available to colleges, despite recent cuts to adult learning budgets.
“Total funding going through FE will go up 13 per cent in real terms by 2020," Mr Javid said.
He acknowledged that many FE colleges were in financial trouble. “That is why we have the local area reviews,” he said, explaining they would help to make sure the available funding was spent effectively. “Overall funding in the sector is actually going up,” he added.
The £3 billion expected to be raised annually through the apprenticeship levy by 2020 would "reassure everyone" that funding to increase the programme would be available independently of departmental budgets, he said. Mr Javid added that it was “important to remember what difference it will make, not just for the young people but for the companies themselves. The benefit will accrue to the company”.
Committee member Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, raised concerns over the value of apprenticeships, pointing out that many of the people starting a level 2 apprenticeship already held a higher-level qualification than they would achieve through the new qualification.
But the business secretary said: “That is one of the reasons we are having a new Institute for Apprenticeships. It will be employer-led, funded by [the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills] and not through the levy, independent, and it would set standards.”
The direct investment many companies would soon be making into the training of their apprentices would “concentrate the mind of those companies over the value of the training they are providing”, he added.