Apprenticeship reforms: Not a time to chill

Is it time to put the brakes on the apprenticeship reforms? At ILM, we believe that now is not the time to stop, says funding and apprenticeships manager Jake Tween

Jake Tween, Funding and Apprenticeships managerBack in March, delegates at the Annual Apprenticeships Conference in Birmingham repeatedly expressed concerns at the current pace of apprenticeship reforms and the Government’s ability to achieve a number of key targets by April 2017, including:

  • implementing the apprenticeship levy
  • rolling out the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS)
  • launching the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA)

Add to this complexities over new funding systems, devolution of skills, a new qualifications framework, FE area reviews… the list goes on… We find ourselves in a genuinely unprecedented period of turbulence, all in a sector which is frequently criticised for failing to ensure stability.

Fast forward four months: the UK votes to leave the EU, we have a new Prime Minister, Nick Boles resigns, we get a new Minister for Apprenticeships and the DfE takes over FE, skills and HE from BIS. Yet more change is thrust upon us and we are still waiting for the delayed June update from BIS.

Is it time to put the brakes on the reforms? Several powerful business groups have banded together to lobby Theresa May to suspend the levy for at least two years. On the other hand, AELP and the Association of Colleges have expressed the need to continue with the reforms, emphasising the increased need for homegrown skills in a post-Brexit Britain.

At ILM, we believe that now is not the time to stop. Pausing will have the paradoxical effect of causing further disruption. We have worked up a head of steam, and education providers and employers are again talking about apprenticeships – everybody is talking about apprenticeships. We need to maintain this momentum. It is critical that Government improves communication and talks openly and honestly about the challenges we face, so we can work together to overcome them.

It is doubtful the Institute for Apprenticeships will be the silver bullet it is being built up to be, but by engaging with employers, providers, awarding organisations and - a radical suggestion - apprentices themselves, the Government can certainly provide some of the desperately needed stability and direction that will ultimately deliver the world-beating apprenticeships we have all been promised.

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