What the apprenticeship reform means for further education colleges
Posted by Ricky Prota
Over the next two years, in what is perhaps the biggest shake up of its kind for a generation, the Government is reforming the way Apprenticeship Training is handled in England, to take control away from training providers, colleges and awarding bodies, and put employers in the driving seat.
Why is the apprenticeship reform needed?
In 2015, David Cameron highlighted a skills deficit in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry:
"If we’re going to compete in a global economy, then we need to make sure our young people are more highly skilled, more highly trained than our competitors: either apprenticeships or university for almost everyone."
Apprenticeships are integral to the government’s long-term plan for developing an improved and more productive workforce. The origins of the reform lie within Doug Richard’s 2012 review, which made recommendations for ensuring apprenticeships in England become more rigorous and responsive to suit the needs of employers. The Government accepted the majority of these recommendations, and October 2013 saw the first employers working as ‘Trailblazers’ to design new English apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches.
These new standards will be designed by employers around a specific occupation. As such, the government wants to encourage all employers to access government funded training while also contributing to the national budget to ensure affordability of the revised apprenticeship model.
What the apprenticeship reform means for further education institutions
Whilst the reforms intend to position employers at the forefront of apprenticeship management, it’s recognised that further education institutions and training providers have a fundamental role to play for the delivery of high quality, professionally recognised apprenticeships - the learning and training delivered by these institutions directly impacts employers’ success in maintaining and growing a strong workforce. Their knowledge and experience is crucial for the delivery of apprenticeships under this new system.
Taking all of this into consideration, FE as we know it is set to change. The reform process is not going to be a case of simply shifting all responsibility on to employers, nor will it involve just shuffling around the content for apprenticeship qualifications: there will be a much greater change in the relationships that currently exist between further education institutions and employers. It’s vital that further education institutions are proactively planning a long term response to the apprenticeship reform, taking the necessary steps to adopt new processes and support systems to prepare for the financial planning and administrative procedures associated with the change.