By Daniel Hunter

Businesses should receive incentives to boost the delivery of high quality apprenticeships, according to a report published today (Friday) by the government’s skills experts, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The call comes during National Apprenticeship Week and the Prime Minister’s call on Monday for apprenticeships to become the ‘new normal’ for young people not going to university.

In their report, Employer Ownership of Skills: building the momentum, the Commission argue that “for too long, employers have been asked to engage with government-led skills initiatives underpinned by unsustainable levels of public funding.”

The 28-page document makes eight recommendations for aligning skills investment with growth potential, and developing a training system that is fully focused on its customers - businesses and people. These include:

· Funding employers, rather than colleges, for the delivery of apprenticeships
· Making public and private investment work harder by measuring the impact on people and business performance rather than simply counting qualifications
· Bringing trusted Labour Market Information (LMI) together and making it freely accessible to answer questions like “how many of this type of job will be available in the future?” and “what do people doing that job get paid?”
· Incentivising employers to work collaboratively and with unions to form industrial partnerships, taking end to end responsibility for skills within a sector or locality by setting standards and defining quality and career pathways.

Under the proposals to change the funding system, firms would receive money directly from the government to contribute towards the cost of taking on an apprentice, and would then negotiate a price for training with an approved local college.

Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills said: “The changes we put forward in this report will challenge us all: employers, government, colleges and unions. But at its heart, what we are recommending is a long term commitment to identifying and investing in the skills and talents our economy really needs.

"To achieve that, employers must be in the driving seat with the freedom to work collaboratively in their sector, in their local area, within their supply chain, and with colleges and training providers to address the skills gaps they face now and in the future. In return, employers need to take responsibility for generating training opportunities for young people which are more relevant and more valuable.

"To support this, colleges and training providers will be freed from having to ‘sell’ government’s agenda to employers. And crucially, given the continuing pressure on public finances, there will be significant savings for the taxpayer. None of this will be easy, but I believe it is vital if we are to develop the kind of workforce which will deliver on our shared ambitions for growth and prosperity.”

Scott Johnson, an entrepreneur who is also a commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills added: “As a small business owner, a direct incentive would encourage me to give an opportunity to a young person and at the same time would give me the buying power to get the skills my business needs for growth.”

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