Sector welcomes apprenticeship funding 'U-turn'

Reactions from the FE sector as the government’s new apprenticeship funding policy is announced

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The government has made "a major u-turn" on its original proposals for how apprenticeships will be funded, according to shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden.

Changes to the government’s apprenticeship funding policy were announced by education secretary Justine Greening this morning. In a written statement, Ms Greening said that the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship in England should be “open to everyone”, regardless of background or family circumstances. Another document revealed that the government has moved to address concerns that students from the most deprived backgrounds and those from ethnic minorities would be hit hardest by the proposals. The proposed rates would have amounted to cuts of between a third and a half in many frameworks, according to analysis by the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

Today it was announced that temporary transitional measures were being used to support learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. Read our summary of the changes here.

Reacting to the announcement, David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said that it was "clear" that the government had listened to both training providers and employers. Meanwhile Neil Carberry, director of people and skills at CBI, said that the new plans would "enable firms to better plan their training and recruitment". Here is what sector leaders had to say about the announcement.

Gordon Marsden, shadow minister for higher and further education

"The government have had to make a major u-turn to their original proposals for funding apprenticeships which would have disadvantaged tens of thousands of 16- to 18-year-old young people, colleges and providers... It is a credit to the new minister that he recognised that this needs to be done preserve any credibility for the government’s social mobility position. We need to see the detail though and whether a year of transitional funding for disadvantaged areas will be enough."

David Hughes, chief executive, AoC

“It is clear that the government has listened to colleges, training providers and employers. We will all need to work in partnership to ensure that the levy is a success and that the reforms to apprenticeships deliver for students, employers and for inclusive economic growth. The levy and the reforms are big shifts in the apprenticeship programme which will need sensitive and watchful handling. The AoC will continue to work closely with the government to help with those changes and support colleges to seize the opportunities that the funding reforms and new register will create.”

Mark Dawe, chief executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)

"AELP is pleased that the government were true to their word and treated the apprenticeship consultation as just that – a consultation.  While there are clearly still areas of concern, significant steps have been taken to respond to the key matters raised by AELP and its members and we welcome that. It’s good to see a very much improved position for 16-18 year olds, particularly on existing frameworks.  There may still be issues for individual sectors when a more detailed analysis is undertaken, but this is a positive move. Today’s moves towards the reinstatement of deprivation funding will be a great relief for those supporting the hardest to reach learners and fits with this new government’s commitment to social justice."

Neil Carberry, director of people and skills, CBI

Businesses are committed to creating quality apprenticeships and working together with the government to get our skills systems right.  It’s this commitment that has driven the widespread concern about the design and timetable of the apprenticeship levy. The confirmation of the apprenticeship levy funding rules demonstrates that the government has listened to some of business’ concerns, and will now enable firms to better plan their training and recruitment.

Stephen Evans, chief executive, Learning and Work Institute

“It is critical that apprenticeships are high quality and accessible to all. We’re therefore pleased that today’s announcement ensures that extra resources will be available for people from disadvantaged areas to access apprenticeships and that there will be full funding of all 16-17 year olds. There is however further action needed to boost the quality of, and the access to, apprenticeships. We have recommended an apprentice premium to help support disadvantaged groups. Our research shows some groups such as BAME often miss out."

Marcus Mason, head of education and skills, British Chambers of Commerce

“Extending the timeframe for which the money can be spent to two years is a good move that will allow businesses more time to plan their training. The commitment to work with businesses on transferring their unused vouchers to their supply chains will also provide greater flexibility."

Petra Wilton, director of strategy, CMI

“Giving employers extra time to spend levy funds and incentives to take on 16- to 24-year-olds will be a great boost to increasing the number of apprentices the UK so desperately needs. A recent CMI survey of over 1,000 managers showed strong support for the apprenticeship levy, and 80 per cent of managers agree there needs to be far greater investment in higher level skills to meet the massive economic and employment challenges that we’ll face post-Brexit."

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