Have ministers mentioned something about plans to create 3 million apprenticeships during the current Parliament? It had slipped FErret’s mind. Coincidentally, this appears to be exactly what happened to the unfortunate person writing the helpful “summary factsheet” for the draft Enterprise Bill currently going through Parliament.
Let’s recap. One of the main ways in which the government is looking to boost apprenticeship numbers is by setting targets for public sector organisations. Back in January, it was announced that the bill would call for public bodies with at least 250 employees to be required to ensure that a minimum of 2.3 per cent of their recruits were apprentices.
The bill is intended to create thousands more apprenticeships in every part of the public sector in England, from the army to the civil service. Based on latest headcounts, the duty would apply to 16 out of 24 ministerial departments.
But anyway, back to the factsheet. The relevant section lists five bullet points outlining what it is hoped the bill will achieve to ensure this bold ambition comes to pass. The first of these, naturally, stresses that the measures “increase the number of apprenticeships in the public sector”. A good place to start. So good that, as one eagle-eyed reader spotted, the factsheet author decided to mention it twice: under both the first and fourth bullet points in the document.
Is this down to poor proofreading or was the detail so important that it had to be listed again? Or, worse, is there a secret government target for how many bullet points to include in official documents, and a poor civil servant had just run out of things to say? FErret demands answers.
While most of the commentary on the apprenticeship levy has focused on the knock-on effects for both large businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), attention last week shifted to the impact on a quite different organisation: the Church of England.
This was explored in the House of Commons, with Caroline Spelman, the second church estates commissioner, fielding questions about what it would mean for the clergy. Thankfully for skills minister Nick Boles, the Church “supports the government’s drive to increase the number of apprentices” (FErret is waiting for the “3 million apprenticeships target backed by God” press release).
Ms Spelman acknowledged that most Church bodies wouldn’t be affected, as their payrolls fell beneath the £3 million levy threshold. But that’s not to say that the Church of England doesn’t have its own plans for the levy proceeds.
The Church “would very much like to see the levy being used to train more ordinands”, Ms Spelman explained to MPs, referring to individuals who are training to be ordained as a priest or minister.
“Every vicar in every parish is not in a position to employ an apprentice,” she said. “Indeed, having a curate is quite a luxury, as it takes so much to train people. I hope the government will support the Church’s quest to use some of the moneys from the apprenticeship levy to meet its shortfall of approximately 40,000 ordinands.”