By Claire West
Skills Minister John Hayes today set out his vision for apprenticeships and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to work-based learning and training.
He told an audience at the Group Training Association England annual conference that the Government was firmly committed to expanding apprenticeships and making them more accessible to learners and businesses.
The minister spoke of the role Group Training Associations (GTA) play in helping businesses, particularly small businesses, take on apprentices and challenged them to engage with more employers and get them involved with the apprenticeships programme.
John Hayes said:
“The truest measure of the success or failure of this Government’s commitment to apprenticeships will be found in how well-equipped today’s young people will be in future years to face the shifting challenges of life and work.
“To be successful in that, we must create a radically new model for workplace training with apprenticeships at its heart and with partnership between Government, employers and individuals as its motive force.
“We have promised to re-shape the apprenticeships programme to ensure that it provides more high-quality training opportunities. We have already begun to deliver on that promise by redeploying £150 million to provide an extra 50,000 places.”
The minister told the audience at the Institute of Directors that the Government would expand and improve the apprenticeships programme by building on the existing strengths of the GTA sector.
He has asked the Skills Funding Agency to review what funding they might make available to support the work of GTAs and to help them expand. He told the audience that GTAs can and should play a major role in our drive to increased advanced and higher level skills in growth sectors.
He also invited GTA England to put forward a set of recommendations to him that will help the sector grow in a way that will encourage even more businesses to get involved in apprenticeships and other training.
Mr Hayes said in his speech that the Government plans to reform apprenticeships in order to build on the quality of the training programme, and better meet the needs of employers and learners, and said Government will do this in three ways:
Expanding the number of apprenticeship places on offer and prioritise more advanced skills levels at level three and above;
Take a firm approach in establishing what the employer contribution to apprenticeship programmes should be; and
Make it easier for businesses to access apprenticeships, and in particular small businesses which can take advantage of the support GTAs offer in this respect.
The minister also urged the audience of employers to contribute to the two consultations launched in July. The consultations are gathering suggestions on how the skills system can better meet the needs of employers and learners, and how to simplify the funding system to enable colleges and providers to deliver more efficiency and effectively.
At the conference, the minister also announced that the work of UKSkills, an independent charity which champions skills and learning for work through competitions and awards, is to be come part of the Skills Funding Agency.
UKSkills’ activities and staff will be transferred and the Skills Funding Agency will lead a more coherent programme to promote skills and apprenticeships through international competitions and award ceremonies which recognise home grown talent, in partnership with the Devolved Administrations. A highlight will be the WorldSkills 2011 international competition which is being hosted by the UK in London in October 2011.