By Daniel Hunter

An independent review of apprenticeships published today (Tuesday) calls on the Government to improve their quality and make them more focused on the needs of employers. The Government warmly welcomes the report.

Doug Richard, entrepreneur, educator and founder of School for Startups, was asked by the Education Secretary Michael Gove and the Business Secretary Vince Cable to consider the future of apprenticeships in England, and to recommend how they can meet the needs of the changing economy.

Mr Richard was also asked to advise on how to ensure that every apprenticeship delivers high-quality training and the qualifications and skills that learners need, maximising every pound spent on them by the Government.

Over the summer months, Mr Richard sought out a wide-range of views from employers of all sizes, academics, experts, apprentices, colleges and training providers.

His review recognises the good provision that exists today, with many committed employers delivering valuable opportunities for their apprentices. However, Mr Richard emphasises the need for greater ambition if all apprenticeships are to meet the standards of the best.

Mr Richard’s review sets out a comprehensive vision for the future of apprenticeships. Key themes and recommendations include:

· Redefining apprenticeships - Apprenticeships should be targeted only at those who are new to a job or role that requires sustained and substantial training.

· Focusing with greater rigour on the outcome of an apprenticeship - what the apprentice can do when they complete their training - and freeing up the process by which they get there. Trusted, independent assessment is key.

· Recognised industry standards should form the basis of every apprenticeship - Employers and other organisations with relevant industry expertise should be invited to design and develop new apprenticeship qualifications for their sectors.

· All apprentices should reach a good level in English and maths before they can complete their apprenticeship.

· Government funding must create the right incentives for apprenticeship training - the purchasing power for investing in apprenticeship training should lie with the employer.

· Far greater diversity and innovation in training should be encouraged — with employers and government taking a more active role in safeguarding quality.

“No matter who I speak with, everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing — but only when they are ‘true’ apprenticeships," commenting on the launch of his review, Doug Richard said.

"With the myriad of learning experiences which are currently labelled as apprenticeships, we risk losing sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships work so my conclusion is that we need to look again at what it means to be an apprentice and what it means to offer an apprenticeship as an employer.

“Apprenticeships need to be high quality training with serious kudos and tangible value both to the apprentice and the employer. I want to hear about an 18 year old who looked at their options and turned down a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them. And I want to hear that their parents were thrilled.

“We need to make sure that apprenticeships are the success story they deserve to be.”

The Government welcomes the wide-ranging review and recommendations it sets out.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“I welcome Doug Richard's review which echoes the Government's current thinking on putting employers in the driving seat of our apprenticeship programme. This will be vital to ensure the skills of our workforce fit with employer needs.

“His recommendations will help us to build on the current successes of our apprenticeships programme and tailor a programme which is sustainable, high-quality and meets the changing needs of our economy in the decades to come”

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

“We must raise the bar on apprenticeships if we are to have a programme fit for the future. It is vital that the qualifications and assessment involved in every apprenticeship are rigorous, trusted, and give employers confidence in the ability of their apprentices.

“I am pleased that Doug Richard's review is uncompromising in its focus on quality and standards. If we are serious about raising the status of apprenticeships we must reform the current system. I look forward to considering his proposals carefully.”

Minister for Skills Matthew Hancock said:

“I warmly welcome this impressive report. Apprenticeships have seen much success in recent years, with over a million started since 2010. I am clear that we must focus on driving up the quality of apprenticeships, and on the skills employers need.

“This report by Doug Richard has a clear focus on improving quality and meeting employer need. The recommendations set out clear principles for bringing all Apprenticeships up to the standard of the very best. We welcome the challenge for us, for employers, and for apprentices and potential apprentices of the future.”

Alison Wolf, Professor of Public Sector Management at Kings College London and vocational education expert said:

“I'm very encouraged by the recommendations put forward by Doug Richard in his review of apprenticeships. I believe his proposed changes are of the scale and nature required to turn apprenticeships into a serious option for our most talented school leavers. As Doug suggests, we must strengthen the quality and credibility of apprenticeships, through rigorous and well respected qualifications. I'm also pleased to see that he is suggesting complete reform of the way Government funds apprenticeships. This is a crucial step if apprenticeships are to deliver the skills employers need, and give enterprises the incentive to deliver high quality training.”

Lord Sainsbury of Turville said:

“There is much to commend in Doug Richard’s report. Its clear focus on outcomes — what a person can actually do at the end of his or her apprenticeship training — is particularly important. For high-tech sectors like science, advanced manufacturing and computing, we need many more apprenticeships which demonstrably meet the skills needs of modern industry. The new private-sector system of kite-marking high-quality apprenticeships — the Registered Science Technician and Engineering Technician schemes — is the simplest way of pointing young people in the direction of the very best training.”

“I look forward to working with government to see how existing kite-marking schemes for apprenticeships can be taken forward to realise Doug’s vision of quality-assured training which meets the needs of industry.”

Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director, BAE Systems plc, said:

“The recommendations are clear and the new, alternative construct described is intuitive, founded on proven principles and stands the important test of sense. It is a departure from the status quo but one that will deliver a much better outcome.”

Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills also welcomed the review saying:

“Apprenticeships are, first and foremost, a job - and as such should be led by employers. I’m delighted that Doug Richard has so clearly recognised this in his review. I also welcome the package of recommendations, and the clear understanding that employers must be at the heart of ensuring high-quality and outcome-focused apprenticeships, sharing the responsibility — and reward — for doing so. Here at the John Lewis Partnership we look forward to working with others to do just that.”

Valerie Todd, Director of Talent and Resources at Crossrail, said:

“Here at Crossrail we employ some 120 apprentices, and I am continually impressed — and humbled — by their intelligence, enthusiasm and willingness to learn. I am very proud of the long and strong apprenticeships we provide and the quality of training which results in a workforce with world-class skills. I am pleased Doug Richard’s review supports this approach, which will strengthen and promote apprenticeships as a credible career pathway.”

Graham Spittle CBE, Chairman of the Technician Council said:

“Doug Richard’s report challenges all of us to think differently when it comes to apprenticeships. Only with high-quality, professionally-accredited apprenticeships will the UK be able to train the hundreds of thousands of skilled technicians we need to secure our economic competitiveness in the coming decades. Private-sector-led initiatives, like those being developed by the science, engineering and IT professional bodies, will be vital to realise Doug Richard’s vision for higher-quality, higher-status apprenticeships.”

“The Technician Council looks forward to working with Doug, government and industry leaders to take forward a shared vision for apprenticeships.”

Sean Taggart, owner of Albatross Travel and SME skills champion said:

“I am pleased that Doug Richard has recognised the importance of apprenticeships to the individual, the employer and the country as a whole. His recommendations for simplifying and strengthening apprenticeships are particularly welcome, including routing funding through employers and introducing new apprenticeship qualifications to replace apprenticeship frameworks.”

The Government will now consider Mr Richard’s recommendations and will issue a full response in the New Year.

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