PAC Report on Apprenticeship enquiry
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released a report on the apprenticeships programme, following their recent inquiry. Recommendations included:
· Broaden and clarify the range of measures which evaluate success, and stop concentrating solely on the 3 million target. Any evaluation of success should include the programme’s ability to meet the needs of employers, how it helps to develop skills and improve productivity, how it improves the opportunities for under-represented groups, and whether apprentices move on to higher apprenticeships. Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said “In our view the apprenticeships programme can only achieve maximum value if it raises skills levels, closes skills gaps and promotes diversity”.
· The department should share data with employers and providers to be clearer about which apprenticeships deliver the most impact and provide the greatest return on investment.
· There needs to be clarity about how the apprenticeship programme will address the needs of emerging industries and skills shortages around Brexit and in other major programmes such as High Speed 2 and implementing the entitlement to free early years education and childcare.
· The process for devising, implementing and reviewing standards should be speeded up, as the timetable to have all standards in place has slipped three years to 2020. Some of the new standards are also unnecessarily narrow and overlap other standards.
· Clarify the intended role of the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) and verify its capacity and capability to fulfil its functions. This should include setting out who is responsible for quality and the success of the programme, who has the power to intervene when value is not being delivered, and who takes the lead if the programme is not working as planned.
· Identify the full range of risks associated with potential abuse of the levy system and ensure that they are addressed from the start. It should be clear who is responsible for managing the risks, detecting problems as they arise, and taking action quickly should concerns emerge. Risks include the concern that the levy, “may incentivise some employers to exploit the system" for example by artificially routing other forms of training into apprenticeships This is particularly relevant as the Individual Learning Accounts of 2000 collapsed due to wide-scale fraud and abuse.
· Do more to engage with SMEs who currently employ about half of all apprentices. Many areas have few or no large employers, but engagement has focussed on working with large levy payers. There also needs to be clarity about how non-levy payers will access funds.
· More needs to be done to communicate the value of apprenticeships to potential apprentices, schools and careers services.